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

Bernie Sanders captured more online conversation than any other candidate last week following his proposal to wipe out $1.6 trillion in student debt, according to data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios as part of a project that will regularly update throughout the 2020 campaign.

Why it matters: It shows that the topics that got outsized media attention weren't the ones that animated people the most. Articles about Sanders generated 5.7 million interactions on Facebook and Twitter over the last week, 64% more than those about Biden, the candidate with the second-most interactions.

Reality check: Kamala Harris generated more interactions on debate day and the day after than any other candidate — but those numbers were still 16% shy of Bernie's for the Monday of the college debt policy release and the next day.

  • Biden had the second-highest numbers for a debate day, although many of those mentions were from stories about Harris' pointed criticism of his history with racial issues.

Between the lines: These numbers put on display the gulf between the coverage that is most visible with the coverage that generates the most intense interest. Coverage that emerges from a high-profile television event can be high-volume, low-engagement, while policy proposals that can be invisible until surfacing in social feeds can have an extraordinary velocity.

By the numbers: Forbes' story of Sanders' college debt proposal generated more than 769k interactions — almost four times more than the biggest story for any other candidate.

  • 5,031 stories were published about Bernie last week — 1,600 fewer than Harris and 3,800 fewer than Biden.
  • But the engagement for Bernie was much more intense: His stories got 1,129 interactions per article, compared to 393 for Biden and 514 for Harris.

Yes, but: While post-debate polling showed a marked uptick for Harris, Sanders' support was flat. It is an indication that while Sanders has an animated and active base, his support may be saturated.

  • His strong name recognition from the 2016 campaign means that he carried over much of that support, but may struggle to expand beyond that group.

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.

See all past editions of the tracker here.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 8 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.