How The First GOP Debate Looked In The Social Media World

Republican 2016 presidential candidates stand at their podiums at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in Cleveland

Jenny Force Jenny Force, VP of Marketing

Last night, Facebook and Fox News teamed presented the first U.S. Republican debate for the coming 2016 election. This was the first of many debates for the world to watch as the race for the US Presidency starts to heat up.

Last night’s debate brought ten Republican candidate hopefuls to the stage to talk and debate over why they would be the best candidate for the party to run for President. It was no surprise that this event also brought about massive social media chatter as people from all over the United States tuned in to see what the potential candidates had to say.

Most of all, people tuned in to see what Donald Trump was going to say in a public forum this time.

We’ve taken to Sysomos MAP, our social intelligence platform, to see what the social world was saying about the debate and each of the candidates.

While Trump seemed to be a big focus for those watching and joining in on the conversation, there were also 9 other candidates on stage with him. We start our analysis by looking at each of them in the social media space. We looked at the number of the mentions each candidate was receiving Monday through Wednesday of this week and the sentiment around those mentions. We then juxtaposed those stats by looking at them again on Thursday (the day of the debate) and into Friday morning.

Let’s dive in:

Sysomos MAP - Donald Trump Mentions

Sysomos MAP - Jeb Bush Mentions

Sysomos MAP - Scott Walker Mentions

Sysomos MAP - Mike Huckabee Mentions

Sysomos MAP - Ben Carson Mentions

Sysomos MAP - Ted Cruz Mentions

Sysomos MAP -  Marco Rubio Mentions

Sysomos MAP - Chris Christie Mentions

Sysomos MAP - Rand Paul Mentions

Sysomos MAP - John Kasich Mentions

It’s no surprise that each of the candidates saw a significant lift in the number of mentions they received on debate day than they were seeing earlier in the week. Most of the candidates actually saw their number of mentions double, but Rand Paul actually saw his number of mentions triple from 36,000 mentions in the first part of the week to 154,000 mentions on debate day and the follow-up morning after.

Donald Trump received the most mentions of any of the candidates, but he has been a large focus for the press and the public because he has been known to say some pretty outlandish things for a presidential candidate.

What’s more interesting to note about these numbers is the changes in sentiment around each candidate and how it changed over the course of the Republican debate.

Mike Huckabee saw the sentiment around him actually improve as the debate happened. Earlier in the week Hucabee’s sentiment rating was 75% favorable, with him showing 25% negative sentiment. However, after the debate his favorable rating rose to 80% while the negative sentiment around him fell to 20%. As well, Marco Rubio saw his favorable rating slightly improve from 77% to 79% due to a loss in negative sentiment around him, but at the same time, the positive sentiment around Rubio also dropped slightly from 26% to 24%.

John Kasich was an anomaly here as his sentiment rating made no considerable change from before the debate to afterwards. In both cases his favorable rating was 80% and there was no change in either the negative or positive sentiment around him from before to after the debate.

However, all of the other candidates that took part in the debate saw their sentiment fall. Some were minor falls, like Ben Carson whose favorable rating fell from 78% to 76% because of a slight increase in the negative sentiment around him after the debate. While at the same time Jeb Bush and Chris Christie saw significant losses in their favorable ratings. Bush went from an 83% favorable rating down to 68% while Christie’s favorable rating dropped from 81% to 65%.

Tracking the Debate Itself

Not only did we look at the candidates as individuals, but we also analyzed the debate as whole.

In total, over Thursday and into Friday morning, the GOP debate was mentioned over 2.2 million times. Again, using Sysomos Map, we found  1,855 blog posts, 9,611 online news articles, 4,376 forum postings and 2,208,614 tweets mentioning the debate.

Sysomos MAP - Activity Summary of the GOP Debate

From all of those mentions, the overall sentiment around the debate was not positive at all in the social media world. Doing sentiment analysis around the debate as whole shows that 60% of all the debate talk was negative. Only 7% of all the conversations about the debate came in as positive.

Sysomos MAP - Overall Sentiment Around the GOP Debate

So, what was all of the negative talk about? Looking at some of our text analytics around the GOP debate we found that a lot of people that were using social media to keep in touch with what was going on seemed to be focused on Donald Trump and what he would say. His name clearly stands out in both our word cloud and buzzgraph around the debate. In fact, the candidates seem to stand out in text analytics more than any of the issues they addressed during the debate. The only issue that clearly showed up in our buzzgraph was from the talk around “immigration” despite other major topics like the economy and medicaid being covered during the debate.

Sysomos MAP - Buzzgraph Around the GOP Debate

Sysomos MAP - Word Cloud Around the GOP Debate

We also noticed that people tweeting along with the debate seemed to bring up some of their own issues in the form of hashtags they were using. Right behind the official hashtag for the debate, #GOPDebate, we found that people were bringing the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag into the conversation. Donald Trump was also a highlighted hashtag during the debate with #Trump and #DonaldTrump showing up in our look at the top 10 hashtags, but it seemed that people were using these over his Twitter handle to highlight what he had to say during the debate. Another interesting hashtag that appeared during the event was #DebateWithBernie, a reference to Bernie Sanders, who is looking to become the Democratic candidate and seems to be a favourite amongst the younger crowd of voters that are active in social media.

Finally, we explored the people that were driving the social media conversations during the GOP debate, which ranged from news outlets of all kinds to celebrities to average Americans.

Sysomos MAP - Communities of Influence Around the GOP Debate

While a lot of people were tweeting along with the GOP Debate in realtime, we found an interesting mix of people and outlets that were saying the most about it. Leading the way was @FoxNews, which makes sense as they were hosting the debate and trying to create buzz around it. They were followed in second place by @deray, who bills himself as protester and seemed to be very vocal during the debate. In third place in terms of number of tweets was @TheHill, a news outlet for political news.

And maybe the most interesting in our top list is the fourth place @pattonoswalt, a well-known comedian who used the GOP Debate to bring his brand of comedy to real-time during the debate taking shots at every candidate. You can see the full list of those who tweeted most about the debate below:

Sysomos MAP - Most Twitter Mentions of the GOP Debate


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