How Social Distancing Impacted The Democratic and Republican Conventions On Social Media

One of the biggest criticisms leveled against political conventions is how predictable they’ve become but that couldn’t be the case this year. Not willing to risk an in-person convention becoming a super-spreader event, both the Democrats and Republicans turned their quadrennial gatherings into a virtual convention. 

So how did the social media audience respond to the unprecedented decision to hold the Democrat National Convention and Republican National Convention without audiences? Did the format shift benefit one party more than the other? What messages or speakers stood out the most? How much of a lift did the candidates get on social media? Here are all the facts you need to know from the ListenFirst social listening platform about the two conventions. 

Insight #1: Trump Generated More Fan Growth During the DNC than Joe Biden 

During the Democratic National Convention on Aug 17-20, Democratic nominee Joe Biden gained 262,132 new fans on social media. This is down -75% from the volume of new social media fans Joe Biden gained the week he announced Kamala Harris as his running mate when he added 459,409 new fans. 

Meanwhile, Trump gained 67% more new fans than Joe Biden during the Democratic National Convention drawing a new audience of 438,620 followers. He also drew an additional 276,687 new fans during the Republican National Convention topping Joe Biden’s 114,180 gain during that time. 

Insight #2: Michelle Obama And Kamala Harris Where The Biggest Stars Of The Democractic Convention 

During Aug 17 – 20 Michelle Obama generated 367,137 New Fans social media, which was 40% more New Fans than Joe Biden generated during the Democratic Convention. Additionally, the video that Joe Biden shared during the Democratic Convention that generated 4,126,643 video views, the most of any piece of content during the event, was a clip from Michelle Obama’s keynote address where she talked about why Trump was the wrong President for this country. Meanwhile Kamala Harris received 396,901 New Fans on social media during the Democratic Convention, which was 51% more New Fans than Joe Biden received. 

While Black Women weren’t on the top of the Democratic ticket, they were the Democrats gaining the most new fans on social media during the event. 

Insight #3: There was More Positive Sentiment Around the Republican Convention Than The Democratic One 

Both Conventions generated more Negative than Positive sentiment overall, but there was more positivity by the people Tweeting about the RNC. Between August 24-27, there were 1,607,186 Tweets mentioning either the Republican Convention, with sentiment around those Tweets being 26% Negative and 17% Positive. In comparison,  between August 17-20 there were 298,967 Tweets mentioning the Democratic Convention with Twitter sentiment around those Tweets being 26% Negative and 11% Positive. The Twitter audience was more likely to voice support for Donald Trump and his family than for Joe Biden.  

Insight #4: Including And Apart From The Conventions Biden Is Facing A Huge Disadvantage On Social Media 

The fact that there were 51% more Tweets around Donald Trump during the Republican Convention than around Joe Biden around the Democratic Convention was not an isolated occurrence. Throughout the campaign, social media has always been a disadvantage for Joe Biden. For instance on Aug 16, the day before the Democratic Convention started, Joe Biden had 11 million Fans on his social media accounts. On the same day, Donald Trump had 136 million fans on social media accounts. While that Fan deficit is too large for Biden to make up by November, his campaign probably needs to be more aggressive in using social media in their campaigning.  

Insight #5: Cross Party Endorsements Got Attention But Less Than Unexpected Moments From Party Stars 

It was a big emphasis of the Joe Biden campaign to feature Republicans who were supporting him in the presidential race, and to some extent those speakers did generate attention on social media. For example, Former Ohio Governor John Kasich was mentioned in 128,741 Tweets during the Democratic Convention with him also generating 7,039 New Fans on social media, an increase of 1,144% from the preceding 4 days. Meanwhile also during August 17-20, 2020; there were 6,777 Tweets mentioning Colin Powell, 60,501 Tweets mentioning Cindy McCain, and 9,478 Tweets mentioning Meg Whitman.    

On the other side of the aisle, previously nationally unknown Georgia Democrat Vernon Jones was mentioned in 65,956 Tweets during August 24-27, 2020 around his speech at the Republican convention endorsing Donald Trump.

That said, unexpected moments from politicians speaking at their own party’s convention generated more real-time social media interest. For instance Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was mentioned in 326,001 Tweets during the Democratic convention, largely around a procedural misunderstanding where it appeared she was endorsing Bernie Sanders and not Joe Biden; while during the Republican Convention, Kimberly Guilfoyle was mentioned in 207,441 Tweets around a speech that included a lot of shouting. 


While polls show a tight race between the two candidates, social media shows a huge advantage for Trump who is incredibly adept at using social media to engage audiences. The Biden campaign will want to significantly amplify their social media campaigning to generate the same kind of excitement coming out of the Trump social media machine.

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All the Twitter data used above is from the United States only.

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