Feb 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Sanders hits new stratosphere of online interest

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Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios — Note: Hover over the weekly rank on desktop to see articles and interactions for each candidate and issues.

For the second straight week, Bernie Sanders has hit the high watermark for online attention in the Democratic primary, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: It's not just quantity. The sentiment of the top stories about Sanders has been more positive than his top Democratic rivals — particularly Michael Bloomberg, whose recent online attention has been overwhelmingly negative.

By the numbers: Stories about Sanders generated 24 million interactions (likes, comments, shares) on social media last week — up from last week's 19.5 million, which was the previous high in the primary.

Yes, but: While Sanders has soared to new heights in the Democratic primary, his numbers still don't come close to Trump, who generated 64 million interactions last week — which wasn't particularly newsy by Trump standards.

Between the lines: While the top story about Sanders was the Washington Post's report that he was briefed that Russia was working to support his campaign, the next 13 biggest stories reflected positively on Sanders. They include:

  • Five pieces touting Sanders' success following the Nevada caucuses.
  • Three pieces math-checking a viral right-wing post that incorrectly represented his proposed tax rates.
  • Two items hawking Sanders' support from celebrities over 70 — Neil Young and Dick Van Dyke.

Bloomberg has also seen his interaction numbers skyrocket, quadrupling since the beginning of the month — but the sentiment has been overwhelmingly negative.

  • Whereas 13 of Bernie's 15 biggest stories reflected positively, 13 of the 15 biggest Bloomberg stories reflected negatively. Many of them centered on comments Bloomberg made in the past — both from right-wing publishers and from liberal media outlets.

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

Bernie Sanders miles ahead of Democratic field in online attention

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios — Note: Hover over the weekly rank on desktop to see articles and interactions for each candidate and issues.

While Joe Biden has surpassed Michael Bloomberg as the Democrat getting the second-most online attention, he comes nowhere close to Bernie Sanders, according to data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios. 

Why it matters: The numbers speak to an enthusiasm gap which will be a challenge for Biden to overcome — even if he's able to consolidate moderate support.

Biden overtakes Bernie with online attention surge

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios — Note: Hover over the weekly rank on desktop to see articles and interactions for each candidate and issues.

In the span of a week, Joe Biden usurped Bernie Sanders as the 2020 Democratic frontrunner, but also as the candidate getting the most online attention, according to data from NewsWhip exclusively provided to Axios.

The big picture: The 41 million interactions (likes, comments, shares) on Biden stories on social media last week is by far the highest level of attention any one candidate has received in the primary in a week, a reflection how much the race now centers around Biden.

What to watch in tonight's Democratic debate

Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Colorado. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Bernie Sanders is now the clear front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and his opponents are ready to try to knock him down at tonight's debate in Charleston, South Carolina — especially Michael Bloomberg, who was the punching bag at the Las Vegas debate.

Why it matters: This is the last debate before Super Tuesday, when Sanders is expected to win California and Texas and could secure an insurmountable lead for the Democratic nomination. That's a direct threat to the entire field, but especially to Bloomberg, who skipped the early states to focus on the March 3 contests.