First Democratic Debates: Aftermath by the Numbers

Below are national polling averages from both before and after the debates. Former Vice President Joe Biden took the biggest dip, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) more than doubled her share of support. While Biden remains the overall leader, Harris’s surge in polling shows that her debate performance resonated heavily with voters – at least in the immediate aftermath.

“Election 2020 – 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination.” RealClearPolitics, www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2020/president/us/2020_democratic_presidential_nomination-6730.html#polls.

Comparing media mentions, Kamala Harris is again the clear winner. She almost doubled her share of 15-second cable-news clips mentioning each candidate and had by far the largest bump in online articles mentioning the candidate. While Sen. Elizabeth Warren remains one of the overall leaders, it is notable that she had the largest dip in media attention across the board after the debate, possibly a result of appearing in the first debate with more of the lesser known candidates.

 Mehta, Dhrumil. “Which Democratic Presidential Candidate Was Mentioned Most In The News Last Week?” FiveThirtyEight, FiveThirtyEight, 8 July 2019, fivethirtyeight.com/features/which-democratic-presidential-candidate-was-mentioned-most-in-the-news-last-week-2/.

Sen. Harris also gained the most followers on Twitter after the debate. It is important to note many older and more reliable Democratic primary voters are not on Twitter.

Bronner, Laura, et al. “The First Democratic Debate In Five Charts.” FiveThirtyEight, 28 June 2019, fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-first-democratic-debate-in-five-charts/

While Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders remain the overall leaders of the pack, these numbers suggest that Harris had the best performance at the debate, and that Biden may not have had as poor of a performance as some initially suggested.

The next Democratic debates, which take place on July 30th and 31st, will have more stringent qualifications, and we will have to wait to see who takes the stage in the next round. One thing is for certain – breakout moments like Sen. Harris’s can have an impact in moving voter sentiment.

While it is still early in the process, many voters are paying attention. NBC reported record viewership for the second night of the first debates, and round two may well be a turning point in the race.

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