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Bernie Sanders And Pete Buttigieg Had A Good Week On Cable News

There are 575 days until Election Day, 462 days until the gavel bangs to open the Democratic National Convention, and more than a dozen individuals seeking the party’s presidential nomination.

We’re trying to find the signal in all that clamor by using polls (of course), endorsements and the data hidden in the actual noise coming out of our TVs on cable news.

Two weeks ago, the news was dominated by the Mueller report — or at least by Attorney General William Barr’s miniature capsule summary of it — and most of the Democratic candidates saw depressed coverage on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC as a result. Last week, however, that story had faded somewhat, allowing some candidates to return to the cable news discussion in force.1

In absolute terms, Bernie Sanders led the week’s coverage. He was mentioned the most — in a total of 551 clips on the three cable networks, up nearly 300 percent from the week before.2 Pete Buttigieg’s mentions also jumped — the number of clips he was mentioned in went from 60 two weeks ago to 216 last week. Many of the more recent mentions had to do with Buttigieg’s fundraising numbers and with his attempts to distinguish himself as a fresh face in a large field.

In relative terms, last week’s cable news winners were Andrew Yang and Julian Castro — the clips in which they were mentioned increased more than 700 percent and 600 percent week-over-week, respectively. Even still, it remained a small sample — they were only mentioned in a total of 101 clips combined.

Also receiving a ton of coverage last week was as-of-now-non-official-candidate Joe Biden. We’ll start tracking him if and when he enters the race.

As the presidential campaign gets louder and louder, feel free to hit mute — you can keep the dial locked right here as we keep track of who would be making the most noise on your TV.

From ABC News:

Pete Buttigieg on how his 2020 candidacy caught fire


  1. Our analysis of candidate coverage on the three networks considers only people who meet our criteria for a “major” candidate.

  2. The TV News Archive measures coverage by splitting the daily news footage across the three channels into 15-second clips and finding the share of those clips that contain a mention our search query. Our search queries are the full names of each candidate. The GDELT Television API, which processes the data from the TV News Archive, measures a week of coverage from Sunday through Saturday. The cutoff for measuring coverage for any given day is midnight Eastern time.

Oliver Roeder was a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied game theory and political competition.

Dhrumil Mehta was a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight.