Even after emerging from his Delaware basement, Joe Biden has consumed less and less of the national conversation while his polling lead over President Trump has swelled, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.
Why it matters: Trump's punches aren't landing. Biden is avoiding heightened scrutiny while Trump absorbs the blowback for his responses to national crises.
Flashback: During this period of the campaign in 2016, social media interactions (likes, comments, shares) on stories about Hillary Clinton continued to climb, nearly doubling from April to July — even before the party conventions began. Biden's have plunged.
- It was also during this time that "Crooked Hillary" saw the most momentum, according to Google Trends data. It peaked in June and saw another spike during the DNC in Philadelphia in late July.
The big picture: The trends speak to Trump's struggles to effectively brand Biden. He has at turns tried to label Biden as corrupt, senile, toothless and a tool for the "radical left".
- Biden has been able to grow his lead by keeping the focus on Trump — a job made easier by the nationwide surge in coronavirus cases.
By the numbers: Since emerging from his home on Memorial Day for the first time since mid-March, Biden's interactions have continued to drop while his lead in the national polling average has climbed. It jumped from 5.6 points on the holiday to 8.7 points now, per the RealClearPolitics average.
Between the lines: It's not like Biden is becoming more popular. Trump is just becoming less popular.
- Biden's favorable ratings have held steady at 45% since March, per Quinnipiac polling.
- Trump's have fallen from 39% to 34% since March.
The bottom line: As long as Trump remains on the defensive — parrying attacks about the health situation, a bleak economy and a backlash against his handling of race relations — the harder it will be for him to get any of his Biden attacks to stick.
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.
Why this tracker matters: The data on interactions — including likes, comments and shares — highlights an important, but under-appreciated element of an election: the ability to see beyond our own social feeds and understand the broader universe playing out of how candidates and issues are moving the minds of voters.
- It measures enthusiasm in a way that traditional polling does not.
- The sample size taken from these social media platforms is massive.
- Social media is powered by emotion-driven content, and emotional responses are likely to be aligned with a voter's true beliefs in a way that can be masked in polling.
While the volume of interactions does not gauge the sentiment of the reactions, the ability to generate reach allows a candidate to expand the universe of potential voters.
- Bots also cannot be ignored, and we will point out in this space if there are documented instances of bot activity for certain candidates or issues.
Methodology: This project measures the number of social media interactions generated on stories published about the 2020 candidates and issues.
- Interactions are calculated from reactions, comments and shares on those stories on Facebook as well as the number of shares from more than 300,000 influential Twitter accounts and retweets and likes on those posts.
- Tracked published stories come from a defined universe of more than 450,000 domains.
- A story registers for a candidate or issue if the keyword is mentioned in the headline, summary or URL of the story.
- Our search format for candidates looks like: "Joe Biden" OR ("Biden" AND ("President" OR "2020" OR "election" OR "Democrats" OR "primary")).
- For issues, we use a keyword tree for related terms.