Bing analyzes the last GOP debate before Iowa

Since its launch on December 8, the Bing Elections experience has been providing a simple yet powerful view of the candidates and issues through the Bing Political Index (BPI), Candidate Trends, and more. As a complement to this, we used the Bing Predicts technology that powers the BPI to evaluate public reaction to the sixth GOP debate, in a similar fashion to our analysis of the third GOP debate back in December. The following information provides an aggregated, anonymous, and unbiased view of what the web and social responses were in response to the debate, from 9-11pm Eastern Time on Thursday, January 28.

Hottest topics: homeland security still in the lead, immigration reform is back

We analyzed attention and sentiment on social media throughout last night’s debate to create a visualization of the topics that saw the strongest reactions from the public. Chart 1 shows the highest trending topics during each section of the debate. For the first 45 minutes of the debate, social media followers we mostly discussing terrorism & homeland security. Towards the end of the first hour, attention peaked momentarily as health care became the top issue. The beginning of the second hour brought on a heated social media discussion on immigration reforms, which was eventually replaced by the topics terrorism and homeland security, Middle East issues, and foreign policy. The last twenty minutes of the debate received relatively little traction, but it concluded with a final spike in attention for homeland security.

Chart 1: Graph of topics discussed on Twitter during the January 28 GOP Debate.

Overall, terrorism and homeland security was the topic that resonated the most on social networks, with 28.4% of all postings dedicated to it. Homeland security was also the most discussed topic of the previous GOP debate held on January 14. Immigration reform came in second (20.2%), followed by Middle East issues, health care and foreign policy (Chart 2). Neither immigration reform nor health care were major topics in the previous GOP debate, whose second strongest topic was gun control.

Chart 2: Share of topics discussed on social media during the January 28 GOP Debate.

Candidate Volume: Who benefited from Trump’s no show?

We measured the public attention each candidate received during the debate using the number of mentions of him or her on social media. Note that this is a ranking simply by sheer number of mentions, so being controversial or provocative counts as much as being popular. Chart 3 provides this breakdown.

With Donald Trump out of the debate, Ted Cruz garnered the most attention with a 27.2% share, similar to his share in the previous debate on January 14. Marco Rubio benefited the most from Trump’s no show, increasing his share to 24.9%, nearly double the last debate. The rest of the candidates (Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Rand Paul) followed from a distance, with a 9-11% share each. With the exception of Paul, who did not participate last time, all saw slight gains in relative share from two weeks ago. John Kasich came last with a 6.9% share.

Chart 3: Chart showing share of social postings for each candidate during the debate on January 28.

Overall, Trump’s absence seems to have made the debate more balanced: a minute-by-minute breakdown showed no single candidate has dominated the discussion for long periods of time (Chart 4). That said, two moments stood out: the first was Cruz’s threat to leave the stage if he was asked “one more mean question” (9:30pm), the other was Rubio’s comment that Bernie Sanders was a “good candidate for president of Sweden” (10:19pm).

Chart 4: Graph of candidates over time, measured by mentions on social media, together with top trending quotes.

However, to fully understand attention share, we need to look beyond the debate stage. While the debate was going on, Trump was active on social media, posting updates from a fundraiser he attended and commenting on debate questions. Chart 5 compares social media attention to candidates between the Sixth and Seventh GOP debates, and takes Trump’s activity last night into account. As the chart shows, most candidates lost some share last night compared to the night of January 14, including Trump himself. The exception was Marco Rubio, who was able to increase his social media attention by 50%.

Chart 5: A comparison of social media attention (measures by mentions on postings) during the January 14 debate and the January 28 debate. Numbers were computed as a fraction of the highest attention, which was Donald Trump’s on January 14.

Certainly, each debate contains intricacies at many levels. This data provides some interesting insights from the data on the candidates across the topics that viewers and readers care about. You can dig deeper into the topics and candidates, including search and social trends by candidate, at Finally, check out our primary predictions for early foresights on February winners and losers.

–  Bing Predicts Team

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