As the Democratic Primary candidates head toward the first debates, the top 6 candidates have maintained their positions with the remaining candidates struggling to break into the lead pack. Within this lead pack, however, we can still find some interesting social media trends to compare and contrast with what polls have been reporting lately.
As in the polls, Biden has been maintaining a significant lead over the other candidates online. While tracking from social media results in much more volatility than you would see in polls, we have witnessed Biden's support trending downward for the last number of weeks. The trend continued this week as questions regarding his recent comments (cancer, segregationist colleagues) have dominated Biden discussions. Despite his frontrunner position, of concern for Biden is the clear downward trend in sentiment over the past number of weeks as more and more online conversations about him are negative in tone.
We can also see longer-term trends reflected in Elizabeth Warren's numbers from the past week, as she has been on a short-term upward trend. We say short-term because Warren has been fluctuating between second and third place in our overall support metric for some time now, while the polls have only recently recorded strong increases in her support.
At the same time, the recent decreases in Bernie Sanders' polling numbers are no surprise since there has been little evidence of his campaign increasing support online for the past couple of months. With a relatively consistent sentiment and volume, it appears most online activity is generated from the Sanders base and is struggling to grow.
Kamala Harris' numbers have been relatively consistent as well, but in contrast to Sanders, her trend is slightly upwards and has been for the past month.
Of the top six, Pete Buttigieg has the most to be concerned about based on our trends. While the polls have been showing incremental increases for Mayor Pete, online activity has stagnated, and sentiment has fallen off from the very positive levels we recorded in March and April. The fact that Buttigieg is the only candidate in the top six that was not considered among the favorites early in the race certainly provided a honeymoon period of sorts through March and April, but the current online trends indicate that growing his support base is becoming increasingly challenging. These trends have resulted in the most significant percentage decrease of online support over the past month among the top tier candidates.
Rounding out the top six is Beto O'Rourke, and similar to Buttigieg, he has to be concerned about his lack of traction as evidenced in both our online analysis and in recent polls. Based on our trends, O'Rourke is at risk of dropping out of the top tier as his online support levels are approaching those of Gillibrand and Booker. While O'Rourke's sentiment has remained consistent, it appears his main challenge has been his inability to maintain his initial announcement levels of attention and excitement which has resulted in lower exposure both online and in traditional media.
Of the remaining candidates, there has been little evidence that there is another Pete Buttigieg who will emerge from the pack into the top tier. However, one potentially interesting trend has been the recent volume patterns for Kirsten Gillibrand. It appears her campaign has hit upon a strategy to get their candidate into the news cycle more often and as a result, more attention. Whether or not this will translate into support remains to be seen but the fact remains that coverage = online attention = a campaign's message spreading among voters.