Online activity shows contrast between U.S. presidential candidates

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

President Trump was the focus of a higher number of tweets while former Vice President Joseph Biden was the subject of a greater number of Google searches, shows a new analysis of online activity leading up to, during, and immediately after last week's presidential debate.

The study, conducted by researchers at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, points to differences in the public's relationship with the two candidates.

"The online community was much more likely to mention President Trump on Twitter—a platform for expression—than it was to mention Joe Biden," says Anasse Bari, a clinical assistant professor in computer science at the Courant Institute and the senior author of the study. "By contrast, Joe Biden was the subject of more searches in all 50 states, which suggests the debate prompted interest in knowing more about him—in part, due to what came up during last week's encounter."

Bari conducted a similar analysis of the first 2016 presidential debate.

The new study included three measurements: 1) Tweets about Trump and Biden in the two hours leading up to the debate, during the debate, and the two hours after the debate; 2) Google searches of both candidates on the day of the debate as well as one hour leading up to the debate through the hour after it concluded; and 3) a transcript of the candidates' words.

Overall, in the study's Twitter sample Trump was mentioned 43 percent more of the time than was Biden. By contrast, Biden appeared in over twice as many searches as Trump in each of the 50 states.

Among the study's other findings were the following:

  • "Country" was the 13th most used word by Trump, a marked contrast to the first debate in 2016, when it was among the top three words he used;
  • Biden said "America" or "American" a total of 29 times—his 5th most used word of the debate—while the president did not use either term at all. However, "African-American(s)" was used by Biden five times and by Trump twice;
  • Trump interrupted moderator Chris Wallace or Biden approximately 100 times—an increase from the 51 times he interrupted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or moderator Lester Holt in the first 2016 presidential debate—while Biden interrupted Trump or Wallace approximately 10 times;
  • Biden received more searches from overseas users, likely due to his lack of familiarity with them—in 2016, Trump received more overseas searches than did Hillary Clinton.

Explore further

Facebook bans ads that seek to delegitimize the election or make false claims about voting

Citation: Online activity shows contrast between U.S. presidential candidates (2020, October 6) retrieved 27 July 2021 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments