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

Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders was the most-mentioned candidate in online news. According to data from Media Cloud,1 a database of online news stories, Sanders was mentioned in about 45 percent of online news stories that mentioned any 2020 Democratic hopeful, up 11 percentage points from the week prior. Some of that coverage focused on a series of proposals Sanders released last week on topics ranging from combating climate change to supporting labor unions to reforming the criminal justice system: For example, 26 percent of online stories that mentioned Sanders also included the word “climate.”

But according to data from the TV News Archive,2 the share of cable news clips that mention Sanders across the three networks we monitor — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC — barely changed. Instead, it was former Vice President Joe Biden who saw his cable news mentions increase by almost 10 percentage points between last week and the week prior.

Online news really paid attention to Sanders last week

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 8/11/19 8/18/19 diff 8/11/19 8/18/19 diff
Bernie Sanders 15.5% 16.9% +1.4 33.7% 44.7% +11.0
Elizabeth Warren 20.1 22.0 +1.9 34.7 40.3 +5.6
Joe Biden 32.0 41.6 +9.6 32.0 37.1 +5.1
Kamala Harris 10.9 8.3 -2.6 23.8 19.7 -4.1
Pete Buttigieg 3.8 3.3 -0.5 15.0 17.7 +2.7
Cory Booker 5.0 2.9 -2.1 15.7 13.7 -2.0
Jay Inslee 0.6 4.3 +3.7 3.6 11.9 +8.3
Julian Castro 2.7 2.0 -0.7 8.4 8.8 +0.4
Amy Klobuchar 1.5 0.5 -1.1 6.9 8.8 +1.8
Kirsten Gillibrand 1.0 1.1 +0.1 10.2 8.1 -2.1
Bill de Blasio 1.2 2.4 +1.2 7.7 7.6 -0.2
Andrew Yang 3.3 1.4 -1.9 8.6 6.4 -2.2
Seth Moulton 0.3 2.2 +1.9 2.0 5.9 +3.9
Tulsi Gabbard 0.4 0.7 +0.3 5.3 5.2 -0.1
Marianne Williamson 0.5 0.8 +0.3 4.1 5.0 +1.0
Beto O’Rourke 8.4 3.5 -4.9 9.3 4.7 -4.5
Tom Steyer 4.3 4.4 +0.2 4.9 4.6 -0.3
John Delaney 0.7 1.1 +0.4 3.7 4.0 +0.3
Michael Bennet 1.1 0.3 -0.8 4.3 3.7 -0.6
Steve Bullock 1.7 1.1 -0.6 5.1 3.6 -1.5
Tim Ryan 1.6 0.4 -1.2 3.9 3.0 -0.9
Joe Sestak 0.0 0.0 +0.0 1.5 1.0 -0.6
John Hickenlooper 4.2 9.4

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

That’s consistent with a pattern that we’ve seen for a few weeks now. Since July, Biden has continued to dominate in cable news mentions but has not always been the most-mentioned candidate online, sharing the spotlight with Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who were both mentioned more than Biden last week. While Warren was not the most-mentioned candidate on either medium, she continued her recent steady rise in media attention. Warren was mentioned in a larger share of both cable news clips and online news stories compared to the week prior, and was once again mentioned in a larger share of cable news clips than since at least April, when FiveThirtyEight began to track cable news mentions.

Regardless of which medium we examine, Biden, Sanders, and Warren have consistently been getting more media coverage than the rest of the field since the last Democratic primary debate.3 The same can’t be said for other candidates. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton were the only two other candidates who got noticeably more media mentions on both online and cable news last week. When all else fails, you can always get the media’s attention by dropping out of the race, apparently.

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 news.

Footnotes

  1. Our search queries are the full names of each candidate, except for Julian Castro. Since his name is sometimes written 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.

  2. 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.)

  3. There is one exception: Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke got more cable news mentions one week in August when there was a mass shooting in a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso, Texas.

Dhrumil Mehta is a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight focusing on politics.

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