Which Democratic Candidate Gets the Most News Coverage?A Data Analysis of the 2020 Presidential ContendersMichael TaubergBlockedUnblockFollowFollowingApr 18In the 2016 primaries, one key to Donald Trump’s success was his ability to get media attention.
By some estimates, the obsessive wall-to-wall coverage of Trump provided the equivalent of 2 billion dollars of free advertising¹ for his campaign.
In this age of social media and 24-hour cable news, it’s clear that whoever can capture and maintain media interest has an incredible advantage in political contests.
As the 2020 Democratic race heats up, I thought it would be interesting to look at how much coverage each of the candidates are getting.
I’ve written some code to scrape articles from 18 major news websites this year².
With this and other data, I’ve analyzed who the media lavishes attention on, and thus who has the best shot at capturing the nomination.
Candidate News CoverageOne simple way to compare the candidates is to count how many articles have been written about them.
By searching for the name of each candidate in news headlines, we identify those of interest.
Using this method, I generated the following chart.
It shows the total number of articles per candidate from Jan-April 2019.
As expected, frontrunners Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sander, Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris draw the most media attention.
However, this reflects all news outlets.
Below I split Liberal from Conservative sources to see who is favored on the left and the right.
It seems that progressive media such as MSNBC, CNN, and Vox seem to talk more about Bernie, while conservative sites like FoxNews, the Daily Caller, and Breitbart spill more ink on Joe Biden.
It’s also worth noting that Beto O’Rourke plays much better on conservative sites, suggesting that he is more of a punching bag for right-wing readers than the other candidates.
Media MomentumAn important point about the above plots is that they reflect all 3.
5 months of this year.
We can get a better picture of the top candidates now by seeing how many articles have been written about them over time.
Below I plot the number of news articles about a candidate in every week of 2019.
Kamala Harris and Beto O’RourkeOn the left we see the number of articles about Kamala Harris (per week) and the same for Beto O’Rourke on the right.
With both candidates, we see a spike of media interest when they first announce their candidacies (January for Harris and March for Beto).
However, the number of articles about each candidate has dropped precipitously since then.
Arguably, neither has found fresh issues or new stories to attract attention.
News Articles per week — Kamala Harris left : left Beto O’Rourke rightBernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenAs with Kamala and Beto, Both Bernie Sanders (left) and Elizabeth Warren (right) got large media spikes when they announced that they were running.
However, unlike those two, both Warren and Sanders have maintained reasonable levels of media attention.
They both still rack up around 20–30 articles per week through March.
News Articles per week — Bernie Sanders left : left Elizabeth Warren rightJoe Biden and Pete ButtigiegJoe Biden and Pete Buttigieg were the latest candidates to announce their runs.
As we can see from the plots below (Biden on the left and Buttigieg on the right), both are still in the middle of their announcement spike.
Time will tell if they can hold on to this initial rush of interest.
If we plot all candidates together, we can compare the scale of their respective coverage.
We can also see how they steal attention from each other week-to-week.
Although the total news coverage of the candidates is growing, it is still a finite sum game.
News SentimentDespite the saying, all publicity may not be good publicity.
By investigating the sentiment of stories about the candidates it is possible to see what kinds of stories get written about them.
As this is a race to be the Democratic nominee, I will only focus on liberal news sites.
Using the R sentimentr library³, articles about each candidate were scored so that postive articles had positive scores, while negative articles scored below 0.
Based on these results, we can see that Pete Buttigieg seems to garner the fewest negative articles, while Tulsi Gabbard gets the most.
In fact Tulsi is so hated by the liberal establishment that stories about her are on average negative⁴.
Among the frontrunners, we see that Beto stories are the most positive, followed by Warren, Sanders, Biden, and Harris.
If instead of news story contents, we just look at just the story headlines a similar picture emerges.
In terms of positive headlines, dark horse Andrew Yang comes out on top.
Similarly, Cory Booker who has not received much attention thus far, also fairs well and stories about him seem to be positive.
Words used to describe CandidatesAnother interesting way to see how the media views each candidate is to see the words used to desribe them.
By isolating just the sentences that have a candidate’s name in them, I generated word clouds which show the terms most associated with each Democratic nominee.
See if you can guess which plot goes with each candidate before looking at the captions.
left — Biden : right — Sandersleft — Harris : right — Warrenleft — Beto : right — ButtigiegSocial MediaAs we know from 2016, it’s not just mainstream news that provides publicity for a politician.
Given how effectively Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez use Twitter to their advantage, I thought it would be interesting to see how the Twitter followings of the 2020 contenders compare.
As expected, Bernie Sanders is number one in social media.
Interestingly, Cory Booker also has a large following that could be effective if properly mobilized.
Looking at cached versions of Twitter⁵, I was also able to see how many new twitter followers each candidate added per month.
Here Pete Buttigieg stands out, suggesting that his message really has resonated with Democrats lately.
Bonus — Comparison to Trump and AOCOne interesting facet of this race is that the biggest Democratic star isn’t even running for president.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may be too young to run, but if she was, she would be a clear favorite.
Of course, the winner of the 2020 Democratic race will have to face off against that titan of free media attention, Donald Trump.
And in terms of media coverage, he continues to dwarf the competition.
Similarly, if we look at his Twitter following, it is far larger than the competition.
In terms of Twitter momentum though, AOC and Buttigieig are very close.
NotesAll code associated with this project is on GitHub at https://github.
com/taubergm/2020DemocraticCandidates1 — https://www.
html2 — the 18 news sources are: politico, huffington post, buzzfeed news, cnn, msnbc, vox, npr, the new york times, the wall street journal, the la times, usa today, the washington post, the boston globe, fox news, the daily caller, infowars, breitbart3 — https://cran.
pdf4 — https://spectator.
us/left-tulsi-gabbard/5 — https://archive.
org/web/.. More details