The 2020 Democratic Primaries

6.25.19 / 11 min read

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.

1 Sen. Bernie Sanders 528,190 13 Rep. Tulsi Gabbard 50,371
2 Joe Biden 525,456 14 John Hickenlooper 41,978
3 Sen. Elizabeth Warren 383,490 15 Rep. Eric Swalwell 32,322
4 Sen. Kamala Harris 264,632 16 John Delaney 28,085
5 Sen.Cory Booker 182,146 17 Rep. Tim Ryan 26,224
6 Beto O’Rourke 164,670 18 Sen. Michael Bennet 24,401
7 Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 129,850 19 Gov. Steve Bullock 23,883
8 Sen. Amy Klobuchar 125,768 20 Andrew Yang 21,763
9 Mayor Pete Buttigieg 120,941 21 Rep. Seth Moulton 18,489
10 Mayor Bill de Blasio 102,305 22 Marianne Williamson 10,036
11 Gov. Jay Inslee 76,915 23 Mayor Wayne Messam 4,321
12 Julián Castro 60,961 24 Mike Gravel 2,551

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

1 Sen. Elizabeth Warren 72,760
2 Sen. Bernie Sanders 62,529
3 Sen. Kamala Harris 55,468
4 Joe Biden 35,013
5 Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 27,275
6 Julian Castro 19,589
7 Sen. Cory Booker 17,620
8 Rep. Tulsi Gabbard 16,967
9 Bill de Blasio 15,833
10 Beto O’Rourke 14,181

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 Sanders 102,072
2 (-1) Sen. Elizabeth Warren 87,679
3 (+0) Sen. Kamala Harris 65,618
4 (+3) Sen. Cory Booker 58,121
5 (-1) Joe Biden 39,503
6 (+4) Sen. Amy Klobuchar 37,521
7 (-2) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 32,835
8 (+2) Beto O’Rourke 24,821
9 (+0) Bill de Blasio 23,498
10 (-2) Rep. Tulsi Gabbard 11,770

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 Sanders 114,354
2 (+4) Joe Biden 86,798
3 (-1) Sen. Elizabeth Warren 72,659
4 (+4) Beto O’Rourke 63,706
5 (-2) Sen. Kamala Harris 44,803
6 (-2) Sen. Cory Booker 35,835
7 (-1) Sen. Amy Klobuchar 28,557
8 (-1) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 28,133
9 (+2) Gov. Jay Inslee 21,534
10 (+6) John Hickenlooper 19,139
11 (-2) Bill de Blasio 15,442
14 (-4) Rep. Tulsi Gabbard 8,241

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 Biden 222,381
2 (-1) Sen. Bernie Sanders 152,935
3 (+0) Sen. Elizabeth Warren 81,153
4 (+7) Pete Buttigieg 54,390
5 (+0) Sen. Kamala Harris 50,007
6 (-2) Beto O’Rourke 37,240
7 (-1) Sen. Cory Booker 35,361
8 (-1) Sen. Amy Klobuchar 24,447
9 (-1) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 20,145
10 (-1) Gov. Jay Inslee 17,031
17 (-7) John Hickenlooper 7,988

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.