With two new candidates joining the Democratic Primary race over the past couple of weeks, we are looking at how online activity for the leading candidates is shaping up and in particular, the striking correlation between this activity and the polls.
Before diving into the numbers, it is important to define our data. When Eyesover analyzes online conversations (from Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, and news sites), we are focused on narrowing the mentions down to original content. As a result, we ignore retweets, likes and shares since there is no new content produced through those actions. We also eliminate bots, fake accounts, and spam through a variety of checks and aggregate multiple mentions of the same topic from a single account, so there is equal weighting from each account in our datasets. In effect, our "mentions" are a count of individual accounts that are "talking about" a candidate or topic. All of these actions leave us with data that we are confident will provide an accurate view of the public's opinion.
The above graph demonstrates how the volume of people talking about each candidate correlates to the candidate's standing in recent polls. Biden is well ahead of the rest with Warren, Harris, Sanders forming a second group.
An interesting additional metric is the average sentiment expressed in the conversations about each candidate. While most are in a relatively neutral range (scoring between -0.1 and +0.1 out of a -1 to +1 range), Eric Swalwell and Kristen Gillibrand are the two candidates that have scores firmly in negative territory while Jay Inslee is the only one with a clearly positive score. Swalwell's volume and sentiment combination indicates his heightened volume consists of significant criticism and as a result, is not leading to support in the polls.
Another takeaway from our monitoring is that it seems the window for entering the race and being the focus of the news cycle has closed. Throughout the spring, almost all candidacy announcements gained enough media coverage to provide candidates with an opportunity to earn significant name recognition. Recent entrants into the race such as NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Montana Governor Steve Bullock, have not been afforded either opportunity, likely due to the crowded field, and as a result, neither candidate recorded any large increases in mentions online.
Small movements in this week's New Brunswick numbers, with most of the change coming from a PC decrease in support and an increase for the Green Party.
The PCs endured slightly lower sentiment over most issues, but in particular, negativity over the flood response has been increasing for the government. Last week was also difficult for the government as negative feedback from issues such as NB Power's Joi Scientific investment and NB Liquor/Cannabis NB results caused a drop in support during the week, from which they recovered over the past few days.
The Liberals fared well with positive sentiment on most issues except economic growth due to the 2015 GDP revision, while the Greens continued to increase their support with particularly strong sentiment expressed towards their climate change positions.
Increased negativity was expressed in comments discussing the PANB's approach to the nursing home issue which has been a consistent trend over the past month.
One of the most intriguing aspects to the Democratic Presidential Primary has been the candidate's fight for media coverage. With 20+ official candidates, many campaigns are struggling because they have been unable to capture the attention of the public in such a crowded field.
The ability to gain media attention (both traditional and online) over the past few months has created a clear separation of candidates into tiers. Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris and O'Rourke have succeeded in capturing national media attention and as a result have moved into one tier, with the remaining candidates a step below in both Eyesover's support scoring and traditional polls.
The path into the top tier has varied. Biden, Sanders, and Warren have been there from the start due to name recognition. Buttigieg required events and announcements to capture enough sustained attention to join. O'Rourke and Harris could be deemed hybrids as they had enough name recognition to be in the neighborhood, but their announcement bumps put them firmly in the top tier.
With all of these candidates, their announcements caused large spikes in attention online and led to increased support in post-announcement polls. Buttigieg was able to build on his spike and grow his presence, while others like Harris and Warren were able to sustain the attention they gained from their announcements. Many others, including all in the lower tier of candidates, could not capitalize on their announcement bumps and have struggled to build on their support base. Of this latter group, it has been O'Rourke who until recently had the largest decrease in attention and support from the peak that came with his candidacy announcement.
Which brings us to Biden. His announcement bump was similar to O'Rourke's in that is dominated the news cycle for 48 hours+ and caused a huge spike in mentions, but it was also similar in a negative manner since the bump was not sustained, and he is back to his previously attention levels. What does this mean for his support? If the patterns we have seen repeat, we would expect Biden's polling lead to start decreasing in upcoming polls. He will remain at the top of the list due to the name recognition factor and the indisputable fact he has significant lead provided by a legitimately strong support base. But the online patterns would indicate there is some weakness in his numbers and he is likely to start falling back to the rest of the field over the next few weeks as others reclaim the spotlight he was not able to maintain.