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

Last week, CNN held seven hours of back-to-back town halls where 10 candidates discussed their approaches to addressing climate change. Those same 10 candidates will appear in the Democratic primary debate this Thursday.

Perhaps as a result of all that attention, many of those presidential hopefuls saw an increase in how much cable and online news coverage they got last week, measured as the share of all stories or clips mentioning at least one Democratic 2020 contender that included their name. Conversely, most of the candidates who weren’t involved (and will be left out of the debate this week), saw a decline, according to data from the TV News Archive1 and Media Cloud.2

Across the cable news networks we monitor — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC — the phrase “climate change” was mentioned in more 15-second clips last week than any other week this year. Five candidates — Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Cabinet secretary Julián Castro, and Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar — unveiled sweeping new proposals to tackle climate change last week, and all five received a bump in their share of mentions in both mediums. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke also saw an increase in his share of mentions on cable news, but clips that mentioned him were more likely to mention guns than climate, suggesting that the media is paying more attention to his positions on gun control in the wake of a second deadly mass shooting in his home state.

Biden got the most media mentions last week — again

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 8/25/19 9/1/19 diff 8/25/19 9/1/19 diff
Joe Biden 49.7% 41.6% -8.1 45.9% 43.0% -2.9
Bernie Sanders 18.5 16.5 -2.0 42.1 40.0 -2.1
Elizabeth Warren 24.3 18.6 -5.6 41.0 37.0 -4.1
Kamala Harris 5.0 7.9 +2.9 23.5 24.9 +1.5
Pete Buttigieg 2.6 7.2 +4.6 17.8 22.5 +4.7
Cory Booker 1.9 8.2 +6.3 14.8 15.6 +0.8
Julian Castro 1.3 2.1 +0.8 10.9 14.0 +3.2
Andrew Yang 1.8 2.4 +0.6 12.1 11.9 -0.2
Amy Klobuchar 1.7 2.1 +0.4 8.4 10.7 +2.3
Beto O’Rourke 2.7 6.3 +3.6 7.7 7.7 +0.0
Bill de Blasio 2.2 3.7 +1.5 7.3 5.6 -1.7
Marianne Williamson 0.8 0.8 +0.0 5.8 4.9 -0.9
Tom Steyer 5.2 1.4 -3.9 8.0 3.2 -4.8
Tulsi Gabbard 2.2 0.3 -1.9 7.7 3.0 -4.7
Steve Bullock 1.8 0.7 -1.1 5.5 2.5 -3.0
Michael Bennet 0.5 0.4 -0.1 5.3 2.2 -3.1
Tim Ryan 0.8 1.4 +0.6 4.2 2.0 -2.2
John Delaney 0.6 0.7 +0.1 3.1 1.8 -1.3
Joe Sestak 0.0 0.0 +0.0 1.4 0.6 -0.8
Kirsten Gillibrand 3.7 10.6

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

The three highest-polling candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren — did appear in the CNN town halls about climate change, but were mentioned fewer times last week than the week before. Still, they remain well ahead of the rest of the pack in terms of both media mentions and support in the polls. And even in that top tier, Biden continues to lead Warren and Sanders in both online and cable news mentions for the second week in a row, leading us to ask the same question we did before the first and second debates: Can anyone end Biden’s media dominance?

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 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.

Dhrumil Mehta was a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight.