Bernie Sanders at a Rally at Pittsburgh University
25th June 2019
Ben Moore

The 2020 Democratic Primaries

At Signal AI we’ve been tracking media coverage of the US Democratic Party presidential primaries.

Our 2020 Democratic Primaries Index has been updated for June and July.

At Signal AI we’ve been tracking media coverage of the US Democratic Party presidential primaries – analysing media pieces from the largest set of sources in the world, in over 80 languages, crossing all sorts of media (print, online, and broadcast).

Using Artificial Intelligence, we’ve been able to track every time any candidate is referred to, even if not by name.

Mentions in Articles January-May

Between January 1 and May 31 total we’ve clocked 2,949,748 references to the major Democratic candidates, in 1,716,201 different news items. President Donald Trump, by comparison, has appeared in 8,184,437 pieces in the same period.

Over half (57.7%) of this coverage has been on four of the candidates: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Kamala Harris.

1Sen. Bernie Sanders528,19013Rep. Tulsi Gabbard50,371
2Joe Biden525,45614John Hickenlooper41,978
3Sen. Elizabeth Warren383,49015Rep. Eric Swalwell32,322
4Sen. Kamala Harris264,63216John Delaney28,085
5Sen.Cory Booker182,14617Rep. Tim Ryan26,224
6Beto O’Rourke164,67018Sen. Michael Bennet24,401
7Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand129,85019Gov. Steve Bullock23,883
8Sen. Amy Klobuchar125,76820Andrew Yang21,763
9Mayor Pete Buttigieg120,94121Rep. Seth Moulton18,489
10Mayor Bill de Blasio102,30522Marianne Williamson10,036
11Gov. Jay Inslee76,91523Mayor Wayne Messam4,321
12Julián Castro60,96124Mike Gravel2,551

From June, we will be producing analysis of the Democratic presidential race on a regular basis. This analysis will look at things such as, sentiment towards the candidates, coverage in key states, and topic specific coverage.

Top 4 Candidates Pie Chart


Coverage of the Democratic Candidates in January

A List of January Coverage Spikes

1Sen. Elizabeth Warren72,760
2Sen. Bernie Sanders62,529
3Sen. Kamala Harris55,468
4Joe Biden35,013
5Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand27,275
6Julian Castro19,589
7Sen. Cory Booker17,620
8Rep. Tulsi Gabbard16,967
9Bill de Blasio15,833
10Beto O’Rourke14,181

Total Coverage (all candidates): 392,735

Key Takeaways:

  • Warren’s levels of coverage in January were driven up by being one of the earliest major politicians to announce,
    • She formed an exploratory committee on December 31. This announcement was covered in almost 10,000 pieces.
    • Unsurprisingly, we have found all candidates coverage increases significantly after announcing.
  • The two most significant events of the month, in terms of coverage, were Gillibrand and Harris announcing their candidacies.
    • Gillibrand’s announcement saw over 5,600 news items and Harris’ over 7,200.


Coverage of the Democratic Candidates in February

A List of February Coverage Spikes

1 (+1)Sen. Bernie Sanders102,072
2 (-1)Sen. Elizabeth Warren87,679
3 (+0)Sen. Kamala Harris65,618
4 (+3)Sen. Cory Booker58,121
5 (-1)Joe Biden39,503
6 (+4)Sen. Amy Klobuchar37,521
7 (-2)Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand32,835
8 (+2)Beto O’Rourke24,821
9 (+0)Bill de Blasio23,498
10 (-2)Rep. Tulsi Gabbard11,770

Total Coverage (all candidates): 524,294

Key Takeaways:

  • Sanders announcing was a big deal.
    • Over 30,000 articles covered this news on the day and day following.
    • This was over double (14,200) the coverage that Warren’s announcement (also in February) received.
    • Since announcing, Sanders’ coverage has never been lower than 1,500 pieces each day.
  • Bill de Blasio still made the top 10, despite being two and a half months from announcing.
    • De Blasio’s role as Mayor of New York has generated high levels of coverage through the year.
  • February has been the least significant month in the race so far.


Coverage of the Democratic Candidates in March

A List of March Coverage Spikes


1 (+0)Sen. Bernie Sanders114,354
2 (+4)Joe Biden86,798
3 (-1)Sen. Elizabeth Warren72,659
4 (+4)Beto O’Rourke63,706
5 (-2)Sen. Kamala Harris44,803
6 (-2)Sen. Cory Booker35,835
7 (-1)Sen. Amy Klobuchar28,557
8 (-1)Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand28,133
9 (+2)Gov. Jay Inslee21,534
10 (+6)John Hickenlooper19,139
11 (-2)Bill de Blasio15,442
14 (-4)Rep. Tulsi Gabbard8,241

Total Coverage (all candidates): 594,814

Key takeaways:

  • March saw a transition away from people announcing candidacies to them establishing fundamental policy positions.
  • O’Rourke’s early campaign was met by an excitement that (as we shall see) has not been sustained.
    • Both his announcement and the release of his early campaigning finance figures were in the top 5 most covered events in March.
  • Likewise, Hickenlooper has been unable to continue the levels of coverage that met his campaign launch.
    • Since March, Hickenlooper has dropped well below our top 10.
  • Even as early as February, the media was already fixating on the race in New Hampshire.

April (with Joe Biden)

Coverage of the Democratic Candidates in April

April (without Joe Biden)

Coverage of the Democratic Candidates in April

1 (+1)Joe Biden222,381
2 (-1)Sen. Bernie Sanders152,935
3 (+0)Sen. Elizabeth Warren81,153
4 (+7)Pete Buttigieg54,390
5 (+0)Sen. Kamala Harris50,007
6 (-2)Beto O’Rourke37,240
7 (-1)Sen. Cory Booker35,361
8 (-1)Sen. Amy Klobuchar24,447
9 (-1)Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand20,145
10 (-1)Gov. Jay Inslee17,031
17 (-7)John Hickenlooper7,988

Total Coverage (all candidates): 799,599

Key Takeaways:

  • Even Sanders’ campaign launch paled in comparison to Biden’s.
    • On the day of announcement, 28,700 pieces covered this news. The day after, another 21,000 followed.
    • This news alone generated more coverage than each of the following candidates have since the start of the year: Hickenlooper, Rep. Eric Swalwell, John Delaney, Rep. Tim Ryan, Sen. Michael Bennet, Gov. Steve Bullock, Andrew Yang, Rep. Seth Moulton, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Messam, and Mike Gravel.
    • If Biden’s announcement was its own candidate, it would have been the 14th most covered.
  • Hickenlooper fell hard.
    • Whilst most candidates’ coverage is increasing month on month, Hickenlooper’s dropped by nearly 60% between March and April.
  • Buttigieg’s coverage increased nearly fourfold from March to April (3.67x).


Coverage of the Democratic Candidates in May

A List of May Coverage SpikesA List of May Coverage Spikes

Total Coverage (all candidates): 628,306

Key Takeaways:

  • May (in our opinion) has been the most exciting month of the Democratic presidential race so far.
    • We have moved out of the phase of candidates announcing.
      • De Blasio’s announcement, with over 8,000 mentions, whilst the most covered event of the month, seems to have marked the end of this period.
    • Candidates have begun taking firm stances on core policy areas.
  • The field is being forced to take stances on topical issues.
    • It has been an absolute must for Democrats to vocally support abortion rights.
    • In the wake of the Mueller report, a large portion of the candidates have openly called for impeachment proceedings to begin.
  • O’Rourke’s campaign is at serious risk of flat-lining.
  • Whilst he remains comfortably in the top 10, month on month his coverage has been decreasing – he has done little of note since releasing his early fund-raising figures.

You can find our June update here.

About the Index

Our index uses Artificial Intelligence so that we can track candidates as trained ‘entities’.

Traditionally, tracking has relied on imprecise keyword searches or clunky Boolean strings. This has issues. For example, searching for ‘John Delaney’ as a key word would surface content not only about Rep. John Delaney, but also John Delaney, the Chief Executive Officer of the Football Association of Ireland. Previous analysis, by other organisations, has relied on “a name appearing in a story” to count as a mention. This leads to inaccurate and incomplete research.

An ‘entity’ can be any organisation, individual, location, or event. In this case we have trained our AI to recognise any time the Democratic candidates are mentioned. It understands context, synonyms, antonyms, and can disambiguate similar or identical keywords. This allows us to capture a much more complete picture of the candidates. For example, our AI registers if Sen. Bernie Sanders has been referred to, regardless of how he is referred to – be it “Sanders, Sen. Sanders, ‘Crazy Bernie’, United States Senator from Vermont, etc.”

For more information on entities please see here.

Using entities allows us to build the most complete image of a candidate’s coverage in the world.

Signal is an apolitical, nonpartisan organisation. We research the primaries because they interest us, not in order to impact them. We are not responsible for how people use our work.