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Which Democratic Presidential Candidate Was Mentioned Most In The News Last Week?

The Democratic primary debate last week has done little to change which candidates the media is focusing on. According to data from the TV News Archive, which chops up cable news into 15-second clips,1 former Vice President Joe Biden was once again the candidate mentioned in the most clips on the three networks we monitor — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Biden’s name came up in about twice as many clips as Sen. Kamala Harris’s last week. And according to data from Media Cloud, a database of online news,2 Biden was mentioned in about 44 percent of online news stories, not much more than Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who were mentioned in 43 percent and 38 percent of stories, respectively. Unlike the first debate, which was a huge breakout moment for Harris in terms of media mentions and cut into Biden’s dominance of both cable and online news, this debate has left things largely as they were in previous weeks.

No one toppled Biden after the second debate

Share of 15-second cable news clips mentioning each candidate vs. share of online stories mentioning each candidate in a Media Cloud search

Cable TV clips the week of … online stories the week of …
Candidate 7/21/19 7/28/19 diff 7/21/19 7/28/19 diff
Joe Biden 44.8% 36.2% -8.5 32.6% 43.5% +10.8
Bernie Sanders 13.6 17.3 +3.7 32.3 43.1 +10.8
Elizabeth Warren 13.8 16.2 +2.4 34.8 38.2 +3.5
Kamala Harris 24.1 18.2 -5.9 30.0 34.5 +4.4
Cory Booker 14.7 8.6 -6.1 20.4 20.8 +0.5
Pete Buttigieg 3.5 3.7 +0.2 15.3 20.0 +4.6
Marianne Williamson 0.4 3.0 +2.6 3.6 16.3 +12.7
John Delaney 0.1 2.7 +2.6 2.7 15.1 +12.4
Bill de Blasio 2.4 1.6 -0.8 9.6 14.3 +4.7
Julian Castro 1.4 2.7 +1.3 7.0 14.1 +7.2
Amy Klobuchar 1.0 2.0 +1.0 8.6 12.8 +4.2
Tulsi Gabbard 0.8 3.2 +2.4 7.4 12.7 +5.3
Kirsten Gillibrand 1.4 1.5 +0.1 11.8 12.6 +0.8
Steve Bullock 0.5 2.0 +1.6 2.1 11.7 +9.6
Tim Ryan 0.3 1.9 +1.7 2.4 11.5 +9.1
John Hickenlooper 0.0 0.7 +0.7 3.3 10.7 +7.4
Andrew Yang 0.6 2.1 +1.5 3.7 9.6 +5.8
Jay Inslee 0.0 0.7 +0.7 3.6 9.5 +5.9
Michael Bennet 0.3 1.0 +0.7 3.0 7.3 +4.3
Beto O’Rourke 1.8 3.7 +1.8 4.4 5.8 +1.4
Tom Steyer 3.7 1.0 -2.7 2.9 2.6 -0.3
Seth Moulton 0.0 0.0 +0.0 1.9 1.3 -0.5
Mike Gravel 0.0 0.0 +0.0 0.3 0.7 +0.4
Joe Sestak 0.0 0.0 +0.0 0.2 0.6 +0.4

Includes all candidates that qualify as “major” in FiveThirtyEight’s rubric. Each network’s daily news coverage is chopped up into 15-second clips, and each clip that includes a candidate’s name is counted as one mention. For both cable and online news, our search queries look for an exact match for each candidate’s name, except for Julian Castro, for whom our search query is “Julian Castro” OR “Julián Castro.” Media Cloud searches use two of the database’s publication lists: “top online news” and “digital native” publications.

Sources: Internet Archive’s Television News Archive via the GDELT Project, Media Cloud

If we look only at cable and online news in the three days right after the last night of the second debate, Biden still remains the most-mentioned candidate both on cable news and online, appearing in 46 percent of all cable clips that mentioned any Democratic 2020 candidate and more than half of online news stories that mentioned a 2020 candidate. Harris came in second over those three days in both metrics, with 19 percent of cable mentions and 36 percent of online mentions. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was third in cable mentions with 11 percent, while Warren and Sanders were nearly tied for third place in online news coverage, with right around 30 percent of mentions.

And it’s not just the level of media attention that hasn’t changed a whole lot. A Morning Consult/Politico poll taken before and after the second debate seems to indicate that the faceoff didn’t do much to change voters’ top choice of candidate — Biden seems to lead there too, just like he does in media attention.

Check out the data behind this series and check back each week for an update on which candidates are getting the most coverage on cable and online.


  1. The TV News Archive measures coverage by splitting CNN, Fox News and MSNBC’s daily news footage into 15-second clips and finding the clips that contain a mention of 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 Standard Time. (Clock changes for Daylight Saving Time are ignored.)

  2. Our search queries are the full names of each candidate, except for Julian Castro. Since his name is sometimes spelled with an accent mark and sometimes without, our search query for him looks for “Julian Castro” OR “Julián Castro.” We aggregate the data from Sunday through Saturday of each week to match the queries of TV news. Media Cloud dates articles based on when the article page says the story was published, which means that it is insensitive to time zones and its cutoff times each week may be slightly different than the times used for the cable news data.

Dhrumil Mehta was a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight.