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Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders' plans for student debt cancellation have by far generated the most online attention from among policies proposed by 2020 Democratic candidates, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: Each candidate is vying to separate themselves from a crowded field with bold, new ideas. This data shows which have captivated readers, as well the ideas being associated with top-tier candidates — a key insight into how the average voter might view the candidates.

By the numbers: The list below identifies the policy stance or storyline that has resulted in the most combined interactions for articles written about the top 8 Democratic candidates, according to an analysis of the 50 biggest stories for each hopeful since March 1.

  • Interactions include reactions, comments and shares on Facebook and likes and retweets on Twitter.
  • The candidates are ranked by polling and linked items direct to the top story on that topic. The interactions number represents the combined total for those stories.
  1. Joe Biden — Strong polling numbers vs. Trump — 993k interactions
  2. Elizabeth Warren — Student debt cancellation and tuition-free college plan — 2.0 million
  3. Bernie Sanders — Student debt cancellation — 1.7 million
  4. Kamala Harris — Black homeownership plan — 522k
  5. Pete Buttigieg — Attacks on the religious right — 1.1 million
  6. Andrew Yang — Universal basic income — 140k
  7. Beto O'Rourke — Pro-choice stance on abortion (largely used as an attack by conservative media) — 404k
  8. Cory Booker — Gun control plan, attacks on NRA — 1.1 million

Between the lines: The short attention spans of media consumers mean that policies that resonate and catch like wildfire must be concrete and easy to grasp, without requiring much grounding in policy, which is often necessary for understanding health care and climate change plans.

  • The simplicity of canceling student debt may be the key driver behind its reach.
  • The same can be said for Donald Trump's border wall and Muslim ban during the 2016 campaign.

The other side: In the case of O'Rourke, the lack of a distinctive policy stance that has found footing has led to lackluster enthusiasm and has resulted in being defined by a message not of his own making.

Our 2020 attention tracker is based on data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios as part of a project that will regularly update throughout the 2020 campaign.

Go deeper

Rideshare companies say driver shortage is pushing prices up

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's not just you: Uber and Lyft rides are more expensive, company executives said this week.

Why it matters: Demand for rideshare is roaring back as the economy starts to reopen, but the same can't be said for drivers on the apps. That means fewer cars on the road, causing a supply gap that's pushing up prices.

Pelosi slams GOP leadership's moves against Liz Cheney

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week condemned Republican efforts to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as House GOP conference chair.

Why it matters: A number of Democrats have spoken out against attempts to punish Cheney for her criticism of former President Trump, framing the discussion as one essential to the maintenance of American democracy.

What to watch in AMLO's meeting with Harris

Three Mexico national guardsmen stand in front of the metro overpass that collapsed onto a busy highway. Photo: Julián Lopez/ Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Joint efforts to stem the increased number of migrants heading to the U.S. will likely be at the top of discussions when Vice President Kamala Harris and Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hold their virtual meeting on Friday.

The big picture: The U.S. government has consistently asked its southern neighbor to prevent immigrants from reaching the border, mostly through threats like former President Trump’s talk of tariffs.