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Which Democratic Presidential Candidate Was Mentioned Most On Cable News Last Week?

Former Vice President Joe Biden has dominated the cable news-o-sphere every week since he launched his campaign, but just how much has varied from week to week. According to data form the TV News Archive,1 on the three cable networks we monitor — CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC — last week Biden commanded almost as many mentions as every other candidate combined, just as he did when he launched his campaign in April. The TV News Archive tracks mentions by splitting each network’s daily coverage into 15-second clips, and Biden’s name came up in 48 percent of clips that mentioned any Democratic candidate last week. That’s essentially unchanged from 46 percent the previous week, but up dramatically from 38 percent the week before that.

Biden is still in a class of his own on cable news

How often each Democratic candidate was mentioned each week in news programming on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, counted by the number of 15-second clips that include each person’s full name

Number of Clips
Candidate Week of May 26 Week of June 2
Joe Biden 1,610
1,706
Elizabeth Warren 437
414
Bernie Sanders 365
341
Kamala Harris 316
194
Pete Buttigieg 137
191
Cory Booker 125
129
Beto O’Rourke 112
92
Kirsten Gillibrand 50
89
John Hickenlooper 33
63
Seth Moulton 32
47
John Delaney 13
45
Eric Swalwell 59
44
Bill de Blasio 40
42
Amy Klobuchar 51
40
Tim Ryan 8
36
Jay Inslee 10
18
Michael Bennet 21
18
Steve Bullock 12
12
Marianne Williamson 4
11
Julian Castro 15
9
Andrew Yang 10
5
Tulsi Gabbard 7
1
Mike Gravel 0
3,467
3,547

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 first and last name (found by running a search seeking an exact match for the name) is counted as one mention.

Source: Internet Archive’s Television News Archive via the GDELT Project

The Hyde Amendment — a rule that bans federal funds from being used to pay for abortions — was one of the most commonly mentioned terms2 in last week’s coverage of Biden, appearing in about 11 percent of his clips. Newscasters were likely referring to his position reversal regarding the rule — he had confirmed his support of it just days before changing course and saying he opposed it.

From ABC News:


The former vice president even loomed large in the coverage of his rivals this week. “Biden” was the most commonly mentioned word3 in clips mentioning Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week, appearing in about 20 percent of Warren’s clips. Biden also cropped up in about a third of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s clips.

Elsewhere, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who held town hall events on MSNBC and Fox News respectively, saw bumps in their coverage last week, while the number of clips mentioning Sen. Kamala Harris declined. Reps. Seth Moulton and Tim Ryan appeared in town halls on CNN last Sunday and saw increases in their cable news mentions, but Rep. Eric Swalwell, who also participated, got slightly less coverage. Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel qualified as a major candidate last week according to FiveThirtyEight’s definition, but he received no mentions on the cable news networks we monitor.

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

Footnotes

  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. Other than Biden’s name, the only words mentioned more often than “Hyde” or “amendment” were “president,” “democratic,” “think,” “going” and “one.” This analysis excludes a list of 178 extremely common words that don’t tell us much about the subject the speaker was discussing — words like “a” and “the.” These are called “stop words” and are commonly excluded from text analyses.

  3. Excluding those stop words, and after Warren’s own name.

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

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