Social Insights Around The Final Presidential Debate

With Donald Trump and Joe Biden having just wrapped up their second and final debate together, ListenFirst decided to take a closer look and see what social analytics could tell us about the two candidates’ performances, the topics that stood out, and what the social media audience is talking about most.  

First Impressions Mattered More Around The Presidential Debates 

There were 787,741 Tweets using the official #Debates2020 hashtag on October 22, 2020 in the United States. In comparison, there were 1,316,265 Tweets using the #Debates2020 hashtag on September 29, 2020; around the first presidential debate.

Sentiment Around Trump Was Less Negative Compared To The Previous Debate 

There were 3,199,419 Tweets in the United States that mentioned Donald Trump on October 22, 2020 around the second debate which -43% less Tweets than the 5,626,707 that mentioned him on September 29, 2020, the day of the first debate. Still, Twitter sentiment around Donald Trump was 44% Negative and 14% Positive the day of the first debate, with that improving to 40% Negative and 18% Positive the day of the second debate. He generated less Tweets the second time around, because the Twitter audience viewed his performance as more steady. 

Joe Biden has less variance on Twitter around the two debates. On September 29, 2020, there were 3,507,702 Tweets mentioning him, with sentiment around those Tweets being 44% Negative and 11% Positive. On October 22, 2020; Biden was mentioned in 3,126,047 Tweets with sentiment for those Tweets being 42% Negative and 12% Positive.

It appears the more civil second debate benefited both candidates; there was less negative conversation around Trump, while Biden was mentioned in a greater share of the online conversation compared to the first debate.

Trump Still Picking Up More New Followers on Debate Night 

On the day of both debates, Trump outperformed Biden by every owned social metric. Joe Biden generated 112,211 new fans or followers on social media and 3,609,228 responses to the content he posted on September 29, 2020 with Biden receiving 94,228 new fans or followers and 3,714,619 responses to the content he posted on October 22, 2020.   

In contrast, on September 29, 2020, Donald Trump generated 135,541 new fans or followers on social media and 10,928,044 responses to the content he posted. Meanwhile on October 22, 2020; he generated 115,227 new social media fans or followers with the content he posted receiving 11,864,718 responses on the day. 

On Twitter, Biden Was More Linked To Hunter Than Trump Was To The Coronavirus

During the second debate, Joe Biden’s biggest line of attack was trying to blame Trump for the coronavirus response while Donald Trump attempted to steer the conversation to Biden’s son Hunter. It appears that Donald Trump was more successful at influencing the social media conversation. There were 290,061 Tweets in the United States that mentioned both Joe and Hunter Biden on October 22, 2020, with sentiment around those Tweets being 41% Negative and 8% Positive. Overall, there were 751,872 global Tweets mentioning both Joe and Hunter Biden on October 22, meaning 61% of the Tweets talking about the two were coming from outside of the United States.  

Meanwhile, there were only 141,439 Tweets that mentioned both Donald Trump and the Coronavirus on October 22, 2020 in the United States, with sentiment around those Tweets being 45% Negative and 12% Positive. 

There Was A Negative Response On Social To Biden’s Oil Policy 

Perhaps the biggest policy news to come out of the second presidential debate was that Joe Biden wanted in the long term to transition away from the oil industry. It was not well received on Twitter. In the United States on October 22, 2020 there were 145,430 Tweets mentioning Joe Biden and either Oil or Fracking, with Twitter sentiment around those Tweets being 42% Negative and 6% Positive. 23% of the Tweets expressed the emotion of Anger specifically. 

Twitter Panned Both Presidential Debate Moderators 

Being the moderator of a presidential debate remains a rather thankless role. On television Kristen Welker received great reviews for her moderation of the second debate, for instance Chris Wallace admitted he was jealous that Welker got to moderate a debate where there weren’t hundreds of interruptions. However on Twitter, sentiment around both moderators was overwhelmingly negative. 

There were 932,190 Tweets that mentioned Chris Wallace in the United States on September 29, 2020 with Twitter sentiment around him being 51% Negative and 13% Positive. Meanwhile there were 126,402 Tweets that mentioned the moderator Kristen Welker in the United States on October 22, 2020; with sentiment around those Tweets being 46% Negative and 17% Positive.      

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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.

What Type Of Social Media Posts Are Working For Presidential Candidates 

While the pandemic might have overshadowed what would have otherwise been wall-to-wall coverage of the presidential race, there’s still going to be an election in a few months, which means it’s time for ListenFirst to break out its analytics and share insights about what type of social media posts are most effective for each presidential candidates. With Kanye West now having entered the fray, here’s what social media strategy is working best for each of the presidential candidates since Kanye’s July 4th announcement.

Abortion Appears To Be The Campaign Issue Most Associated With Kanye West 

Between July 4 – August 11, 2020 there were 143,896 Tweets mentioning both Kanye and Abortion; though sentiment around those Tweets was 44% Negative, compared to 4% Positive. Kanye had talked at a campaign rally about how they had considered aborting his now 7-year-old daughter, and how upsetting that is to him. For every Tweet praising his Pro-Life stance, there were a lot more saying things like “kanye saying abortion isn’t natural whilst having two surrogate babies is hilarious to me.” 

While Kanye’s Pro-Life message is generating more negative than positive feedback, there’s still an audience that his feelings about abortion are connecting with, and as a third-party candidate; focusing on Pro-Life messaging might be his best chance on becoming a greater part of the national conversation.

President Trump Posts Short, All Caps Tweets Because They Generate The Most Responses

President Trump’s Tweets tend to perform the best in slogan form. For instance between July 4 – August 11, 2020; 4 of the top 10 best performing Tweets by Donald Trump said “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” and only that; with those Tweets averaging 645,662 responses. Overall, 9 of the 10 President Trump Tweets that generated the most responses in that time period were just one sentence long with “OPEN THE SCHOOLS!!!” generating 688,231 responses and only containing three words.   

During the same time period and in keeping with that less is more strategy, his top performing post on Instagram which generated 1,658,587 responses was a captionless picture of him posing with Goya products at the White House.  

‘Not Trump’ Tweets Are Performing The Best For Biden 

Generating 848,461 responses, the top performing Tweet for Joe Biden between July 4 – August 11 said “You won’t have to worry about my tweets when I’m president”. Other top performing posts included a Tweet that generated 404,892 responses saying we can’t let Donald Trump open up the Grand Canyon for uranium mining and a Tweet saying President Trump is ignoring the President Obama playbook for fighting pandemic which generated 404,702 responses. In comparison, the Tweet announcing Kamala Harris as his VP choice that didn’t mention Trump received 391,399 responses. It appears framing his Tweets as a critique of President Trump is his most effective strategy.


Just like in any other type of social media marketing; connecting with the audience around political campaigns requires having social media analytics to understand what messaging is most resonant. ListenFirst provides the insights necessary for that winning social media strategy.

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