Did Mike Bloomberg’s Poor Performance on the 9th Democratic Debate Stalled His Momentum?

On February 25, 2020, Mike Bloomberg will participate in his second Democratic primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina. After his poor performance in the 9th Democratic Debate on February 19 in Paradise, Nevada, this could be a defining moment in the race.

While he will not be participating in South Carolina’s Democratic primary, the debate will be held a week before Super Tuesday, when 15 states, including California and Texas, will hold their primaries and the eight candidates will compete for 34% of all the pledged delegates.

How bad was Bloomberg’s performance in the Nevada debate? Recent evidence suggests that his momentum has stalled. This does not mean that Bloomberg is out of the race. But his path to victory may be more difficult if he has another lackluster performance in the upcoming debate. 

Before we look at two metrics that show Bloomberg’s decreasing popularity, it is important to point out that more than 33 million saw the debate. To put this figure in perspective, 11 million viewers watched each of the previous two debates.

Bloomberg’s Polling Averages

Before the Iowa caucuses, Joe Biden enjoyed a big lead in the polls, followed by Bernie Sanders. Biden’s centrist positions appealed to many Democrats but weak showings in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary raised questions about his electability and his long-term viability. 

Unsure about Sanders’ progressive policies and as a reaction to his growing popularity, many Democrats see Bloomberg as an alternative to Biden, Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar.

The following graph charts Bloomberg’s increasing popularity before the debate and also his decreasing support after. The gray vertical line depicts February 19, 2020  —  the date of the Nevada Democratic Debate. 

While his support has dropped, it is important to note that only two nationals polls were conducted after the debate. The survey conducted by CBS News/YouGov estimates his support at 13%. The Morning Consult/Politico Poll conducted before and after the debate indicates that Bloomberg’s support fell from 20% to 17%. To be sure, these two polls do not represent a trend, but they do point out that Democrats are questioning his electability.

Bloomberg’s Social Media Followers

In a post I wrote after the New Hampshire debate, I explained why political campaigns are trying to grow their social media followings. 

When I started to track Bloomberg’s following on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at the end of November 2019, he had 2.3 million followers on Twitter and 233,891 on Instagram. Facebook provides us two measures: Page Likes and Page Follows. He had 762,190 page likes and 766,443 page follows.

Today, his Facebook measures are 891,955 and 933,644 respectively. He currently has close to 2.7 million Twitter followers and 420,262 on Instagram. 

The next graph measures the change in followers for each social media network. The gray line depicts February 19, 2020  —  the date of the Nevada Democratic Debate. 

We can clearly see sharp drops in the number of followers on Facebook and Instagram after February 19, 2020. The decrease in Twitter is less pronounced, but still noteworthy.

Can Bloomberg Regain His Groove?

While Bloomberg’s momentum has stalled, he has an opportunity to right the ship. Sanders’ overwhelming victory in the Nevada caucuses has rattled the Democratic Party’s leadership. Many moderate Democrats are still searching for an alternative to Sanders.

However, Elizabeth Warren’s attacks during the last debate undermined his credibility among women, Latinxs and African Americans. It is difficult to see how Bloomberg can win a majority of pledged delegates in the Super Tuesday contests without the support of these three voting groups. This is why a strong performance in the upcoming South Carolina debate is critical.

After the New Hampshire Primary: Who is Leading the Democratic Race for the 2020 Presidential Nomination?

In this year’s Democratic presidential nomination, the candidates will compete for the support of a majority delegates in 57 contests — the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the five unincorporated territories and Democrats Abroad. There are two types of delegates: 3,979 pledged delegates and 771 automatic delegates, more commonly known as superdelegates. The last contest will be held in the U.S. Virgin Islands on June 9, 2020. 

Who is leading the Democratic race now? The simple answer is that the candidate who has won the most pledged delegates is in the lead. But, at this time, this is not a great measure. Iowa is re-canvassing some of its vote and New Hampshire’s “first-in-the-nation” primary only represents 0.6% of the pledged delegates. 

Assuming Iowa’s first count was correct and adding the New Hampshire primary’s results, Pete Buttigieg enjoys a narrow lead over his rivals. 

Even though we should not dismiss Buttigieg’s strong performance, Iowa’s and New Hampshire’s populations are not very diverse. Polling data indicates that he has not connected with African American and Latino/a voters. This is a problem for Amy Klobuchar too. We need to question their long-term ability to win the necessary 1,990 pledged delegates to clinch the nomination. 

Bernie Sanders’ support among non-White voters seems to be higher than in 2016, but there are still questions whether he can broaden his coalition. Joe Biden’s and Elizabeth Warren’s poor showings in New Hampshire have raised questions about their electability. And then there is Michael Bloomberg’s self-funded campaign, which is gaining traction in national polls. 

Until Super Tuesday, when 15 states hold their primaries representing 34% of the available pledged delegates, we should pay little attention to the delegate count. At this time, national and state polls are a better measure of who is leading the race. Figure 2 summarizes the candidates’ polling averages for the last few weeks. 

Looking at these trends closely, we can see three important patterns. First, as Sanders’ popularity increases, Warren’s decreases. It looks like he is consolidating the progressive vote at her expense. Second, Biden’s declines are matched by the rise in Bloomberg’s and Buttigieg’s support. While Klobuchar did win a surprising third place in New Hampshire, her performance has not really affected her popularity at the national level. Thus, we can assume that moderate voters are divided. Finally, the last polls show that Buttigieg’s surge seems to have stalled. 

Because I think that social media matters in political campaigns, we should also consider the number of people following the candidates’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Figure 3 provides the percentage increase in followers in the three platforms from January 20, 2020, to February 14, 2020. 

The graph shows why Warren and Biden should be concerned. These numbers also suggest that Bloomberg is doing the best, followed by Buttigieg and Klobuchar. But, it is important not to exaggerate their growth in followers. While Sanders’ numbers are not as strong as some of his rivals, he has the most followers — as Table 1 shows. But, as Bloomberg spends more on television and online advertisings, we should expect that he will gain more followers.

Similarly, Buttigieg’s strong performance in Iowa and New Hampshire as well as Klobuchar’s surprising third place in the Granite State has boosted their number of social media followers.

Which of these measures is the best to determine who is leading the race for the Democratic presidential nomination? At this time, polling data is the best. But metrics on candidates’ social media followings can help us contextualize the race. Sanders is clearly in the lead and strong performances in Nevada and South Carolina will further cement his lead. But Bloomberg’s rise in the polls and social media reminds us that this race is just starting, a problem for Buttigieg, who leads — for now — the count of pledged delegates, but nothing else.

Could Candidates’ Visits to New Hampshire Indicate Who Will Win the Democratic Primary?

Introduction:

In the last Democratic Debate, Joe Biden noted in regards to his fourth place finish in the Iowa caucuses and his chances of winning the New Hampshire primary: “I took a hit in Iowa and I’ll probably take a hit here. Traditionally, Bernie won by about 20 points last time, and usually it’s the neighboring senators that do well.” In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s surrogates dismissed Bernie Sanders’ victory as “a matter of geography”. These statements are problematic in two levels. 

First, in 2020, Bernie Sanders is not the only candidate from New England in the race. While Clinton did not win the primary in 2016, she pulled off a surprise victory in 2008. Thus, she should have been able to compete against Sanders in 2016. Second, these views are an insult to New Hampshire voters’ intellect. Primary-goers proudly study the candidates’ positions very carefully, they expect candidates to spend a lot of time answering their questions, and they usually make-up their minds late in the game.

In this post, I will look at the candidates’ campaign events in the Granite State, especially those events that took place after the Iowa caucuses. To try to gauge the popularity of these events, I tap on data collected on each candidate’s Facebook page, which includes information on the number of Facebook users (i.e. guests) who demonstrated an interest in many of these events. 

The Data:

I scraped the data on campaign events from the NECN’s 2020 New Hampshire Candidate Tracker. I cross-referenced each event with the list of event indexed in the candidates’ Facebook page. I then collected the number Facebook users who said they would attend these events. 

It is important to add two caveats at this point. The Facebook “event guests” data does not represent the total number of people that attend an event. I suspect that the number of attendees is higher as the candidates use many tools to advertise their events. I use these data to help us make sense of each candidate’s support in Facebook. Second, the events listed in the Candidate Tracker are not included in some candidates’ Facebook pages. In these cases, I relied on the NECN’s reporting to construct my dataset.

My dataset also classifies each event into different types, including “town halls”, “rallies”, “speeches” and so forth. Although this analysis will not use these data points, the dataset includes specific information of the venues that hosted these events and the time of day. 

Who Will Likely Win the Primary?

Before we start our analysis, the RealClearPolitics average indicates that Bernie Sanders will more than likely win the primary. Pete Buttigieg should place second, while Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, and former Vice President Joe Biden compete for third place. The rest of the field is in the single digits. 

Given this forecast, we should expect that the leading candidates organized more events than the weaker ones. But this is not the case. Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who is expected to receive around 3% of the vote, held 126 events since she announced her candidacy last year. Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, who is likely to get less than 1% of the vote, held 82 events.

It is worth highlighting that the Biden campaign organized only 42 events in New Hampshire since April 2019. This is the lowest number of appearances for one of the major contenders in my dataset. 

Rather than looking at all of New Hampshire’s campaign events, I focus on those events held in January and February of this year. In addition, given their low polling average, this does not include events for the following candidates: Bennet, the philanthropist Tom Steyer, and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.

Total Number of 2020 Campaign Events Per Candidates:

The next figure summarizes each campaign’s events for January and February 2020. In line with the figures above, Yang and Gabbard organized more events than their counterparts. For Gabbard, a poor showing in New Hampshire will more than likely end her presidential hopes and it may explains why she devoted some much time and resources in the state. 

Yang’s long-term prospects are better than Gabbard’s but it is not clear why he organized so many events. The polling average suggests that he will win around 4% of the vote. Does his internal polling suggest he receive a higher share of the vote?

Geographical Distribution of 2020 Campaign Events:

The next map shows that most of the events were held in the counties bordering Massachusetts, were the majority of the state’s residents live. More specifically, 76 events were held in Hillsborough County, where the city of Manchester is located, closely followed by 30 events in Merrimack County and 24 in Rockingham County. The candidates did not visit Coos County this year, though several candidates held events in this part of the state last year. 

In the last days of the primary, the candidates concentrated most of their time and resources in Manchester and Concord. This following bar graph shows that Yang visited many of the listed towns and cities. The same applies to Buttigieg, Sanders and Klobuchar. In contrast, the Biden campaign prioritized more densely populated communities over rural areas. It indicates that the former vice president may have difficult connecting with rural voters. 

Which Candidate Held the Most Events in February?

Most of the candidates participated in at least two events per day. The exception is February 7, 2020, as most of the candidates used this day to prepare for the debate. As expected, the majority of campaign events since the Iowa caucuses took place in the last days of the race. 

Yang appeared in 28 events, while Sanders had 22 and most of these took place in the last three days of the race.

Main types of campaign events and their popularity:

Town halls are the most popular type of campaign events in my dataset. The events labeled as “speech” include events or forums, where the candidate was been invited to speak. Not included in this graph are informal “meet and greets”, canvassing events and so forth. What can we learn from these data?

The candidates with the least recognition — Gabbard and Yang — held the most town halls in January and February. The Klobuchar campaign organized more rallies than town halls, which is surprising given her strong debate performance.

 In contrast, it is not accidental that the Biden campaign favored rallies to town halls as the former Vice President has in the past confronted attendees who have asked questions about his son’s connection to a Ukrainian gas company or challenged participants who questioned his electability. 

What type of activities did the campaigns selected in the closing days of the primaries? And which events attracted the most attention? To answer these questions let’s look at the collected Facebook data. 

Keeping in mind that the Facebook Guests data are not representative and that many more people attended these events, Sanders seems to have received the most total support. Nonetheless, Yang’s numbers are very impressive too. But if we average the total number of guests by the type of events, his popularity declines relative to the rest of the field. 

To gauge each candidate’s popularity, we can average the number of Facebook guests who expressed interests one of these types of events (i.e. see second column in the graph above). Although these data are noisy, these findings are in line with the primary’s forecasted outcome. 

Concluding Remarks:

In this short analysis, I have used different data points try to measure the campaign’s overall strengths and the candidates’ popularity. In reaction to Biden’s opinion that New Hampshire voters prefer New England candidates over nominees from others part of the country, this analysis shows that this is not the case. Sanders’ popularity is an outcome of his high name recognition as well as his campaign’s organizational capacities. 

It will be interesting whether the forecasts are correct. While Facebook data are not representative, they could be one way to measure and contrast candidates’ level of popularity. This is an area for further exploration and it will be interesting to see how this analysis applies to events data from Iowa or the upcoming nomination contests in Nevada and South Carolina, which require the candidates to spend some time in those states engaging voters.

Which Candidate Earned the Most Social Media Followers after the New Hampshire Democratic Debate?

I did not have a chance to see the New Hampshire Democratic Debate and it seems that the candidates did not make any major mistakes. FiveThirtyEight, working with Ipsos, interviewed, voters before and after the debate and the results are quite interesting. Respondents were asked to rate each participants’ debate performance. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar were at the top of the list, followed by Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Joe Biden. At the end of the list were Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang – in that order. 

The goal of the debates is to help voters decide who to support in the upcoming primaries and caucuses. The FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos survey can help us understand whether the candidates’ debate performance affected respondents’ voting choices. Figure 1 summarizes these findings. 

Most of the candidates’ performances convinced some voters to give them a second look. Yang’s numbers were basically flat, while Biden’s decline should be seen as one more signal that his campaign is in some trouble. 

For the past year, I have been collecting data on each candidates’ number of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Campaigns need to build their social media followings to accomplish at least four important goals: (1) communicate their ideas, (2) promote their events; (3) request financial support; and (4) to get out the vote. More savvy campaigns also analyze followers’ comments to evaluate the effectiveness of their social media strategies.

Even though social media platforms are not representative of the United States public, the Pew Research Center finds that at least 72% of Americans use “some type of social media” and Facebook is currently the “most-widely used” platform.

Thus, I assume that political campaigns want to grow their social media followings and noteworthy events, such as debates, should help these campaigns attract new followers and keep existing ones.

Which of the candidates who participated in the debate attracted the highest number of new followers? 

I collected the number of followers on each platform a few hours before the debate and 14 hours after. Rather than reporting each candidate’s number of new followers. I calculate the increase as a percentage of their post-debate total. Figure 2 summarizes the Facebook statistics, which includes two measures “page likes” and “page follows”.

Figure 3 describes the percent increase in Instagram followers and figure 4 summarizes the statistics for Twitter followers. 

Although the growth patterns in each social media platform are different, the graphs echo some of the FiveThirtyEight-Ipsos’ survey. Klobuchar is the big winner in the three platforms, while Buttigieg comes in second. While it seems unlikely that Klobuchar will win the New Hampshire primary, her growing popularity may weaken Biden’s support and halt Buttigieg’s gains. Yang’s and Steyer’s increasing followers, especially on Twitter and Instagram, suggest that people want to learn more about their views.

While it is difficult to make sense of Sanders’ and Warren’s modest growth, the figures indicate that Biden’s campaign is in trouble. He lost followers on Instagram, while his gains in the other two platforms were at best anemic. Biden is no longer the front-runner and his presidential hopes seem to be fading.

Can the number of each candidates’ social media followers tell us something about their popularity and their campaign’s strength? This is one of the questions that informs my current research. But it seems that at first glance the findings of the FiveThirtyEight-Ipsos’ survey are in line with the amount of followers each of the participants gained 14 hours after the debate.

Iowa’s Democratic Caucuses: Turnout Lower than Expected, But Not Lower than in 2016

Like many observers, I thought that we were going to see an increase in the number of caucus-goers in Iowa. News reports suggested that the Iowa Democratic Party was expecting numbers closer to the record-setting caucuses of 2008, where around 240,000 voters participated in the nominating process. The Monmouth Poll of January 29, 2020, which documented Bernie Sanders’ rising popularity in Iowa and Joe Biden’s slide, indicated that its forecast assumed the turnout rate would be closer to 2008 than 2016.

Although the numbers may change as the Democratic National Committee has asked the Iowa Democratic Party to conduct a recount of the vote, the turnout rate is similar to 2016 as Figure 1 demonstrates.

The caucuses are only open to registered Democrats, though the rules allow participants to change their registration or register as Democrats at the caucus sites. Rather than looking at the total number of caucus-goers, we should measure the percent of “active registered” Democrats who participated in the caucuses.

Trying to calculate this figure is tricky given that we do not know how many caucus-goers registered with the Iowa Democratic Party before the start of this year’s caucuses. As documented in Figure 2, we know that past caucuses have increased the Iowa Democratic Party’s count of active registered voters.

Based on past trends, we can safely assume that the number of registered Democrats will increase and Iowa’s Secretary of State will publish new numbers in early March 2020 that should support this view. For now, we can average the observed increases since 2000 and estimate that the IDP’s voter roll will increase by around 24,191.

If this is a valid estimate, the turnout rate for this year’s caucuses would be around 29.87%, which is a little bit higher than the 2016 rate of 27.95% but lower than the 36.11% record set in 2008.

What may explain the lower than expected voter turnout in Iowa? One possible answer is that the campaigns failed to energize voters and to attract new caucus-goers. This year’s entrance poll demonstrates that for 37% of participants this was their first caucus. In comparison, the rate was 44% and 57% in 2016 and 2008, respectively.

Another reason could be voters’ difficulty trying to decide who to support. Caucuses are more demanding than primaries. They are communal events where participants publicly announce their preferences and they need to be ready to change their to support if their candidates fail to garner the backing of 15% of voters in the caucus. This process is tedious and puts undo pressure on voters. It may even explain why turnout rates in primaries are higher than in caucuses. Thus, caucuses should attract participants whom are certain about their choices rather than those who are undecided.

This year’s entrance poll reveals that over 36% of caucus-goers decided “whom to support” a “few days” before the caucuses. In comparison, these late-deciders represented 16% of caucus-goers in 2016. This discrepancy may suggest that many voters did not attend this year’s caucuses because they were unable to make a choice and, as explained below, the fact that we currently have 12 candidates in this race make this process even more difficult.

One final cause for the lower than expected turnout rate could be that there were too many candidates. The academic literature on choice overload may not only explain this year’s turnout but it could also shed light as to why many Democrats have been so angered by the caucuses’ results. This research argues that people are overwhelmed when presented multiple choices, forcing many to defer the choice or not make a choice altogether.

Writing April 2, 2019 in Politico Magazine, Lily Kofler, reacting to the growing field of Democratic presidential aspirants, used this research to predict that “too many options will, counterintuitively, result in lower satisfaction among Democratic voters – and possibly lead to lower enthusiasm and lower turnout.” Her prescient insights foreshadowed Democrats’ mixed emotions with the state of nomination process today.

While many Democrats are dissapointed by the turnout rate in this year’s Iowa caucuses, they should find some comfort that the number of caucus-goers increased slightly. Another positive outcome is the fact that the Iowa Democratic Party will likely add new voters to its roll. The challenge is not the lower-than expected turnout, but the fact that the results of the Iowa caucuses did not produce a clear winner or put enough pressure on weaker candidates to end their presidential aspirations.

Getting Ready for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination Caucuses and Primaries

Monday, February 3, 2020, Iowa will hold their caucuses, marking the official start of the Democratic presidential nomination contest. New Hampshire’s primary will be held eight days later, followed by 55 more contests ending on June 6, 2020. 

Although 12 candidates are competing for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, it seems that three have a realistic shot at winning the nomination: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

Recent polls show that Biden is still in the lead, but Sanders is closing the gap, while Warren’s numbers keep sliding. These polls also indicate that Mike Bloomberg’s popularity is increasing and that Andrew Yang’s is gaining more support. Could Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar pull off a surprise win in one of the first contests?

Although they represent 4% of all pledged delegates, the first four contests earn lots of media attention. For the weaker candidates, a poor showing in these primaries or caucuses will end their presidential hopes while the winners will get a bump in the polls. But for the top candidates, the real test will be on March 3, Super Tuesday. On this day, 15 states, including California and Texas, will hold their primaries and the candidates will compete for 34% of all the pledged delegates.

Other dates in the schedule are important too. On March 17, the candidates will compete for 15% of the pledged delegates in four major major primaries. If a winner has not been decided by then, the Acela Primaries on April 28 will likely determine the presumptive nominee. 

Who will win the nomination? It is too early to say. But the answer will start to be clearer after Super Tuesday. And for those who are curious about upcoming contests, here is a list of this year’s Democratic caucuses and primaries.

Wikipedia ‘Pageviews’ and the Early Days of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primaries

We are just 334 days from the Iowa presidential caucuses!

So far, twelve Democrats have announced their intention to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and we are still waiting for a few more candidates, including Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, to join the race.

Which of these candidates has generated the most buzz?

For today’s post, let’s look at Wikipedia “pageviews” data for the 10 candidates who declared their candidacy before February 28, 2019. In the past, political scientists (i.e. Smith and Gustafson 2017; and Yasseri and Bright 2016) have looked at ways these “pageviews” can help investigators predict the outcome of elections. While it is too early to predict who will win the Democratic presidential nomination, it is never to early to see how different indicators can help us think about different political events.

Wikipedia data suggests that these 10 candidates’ pages earned 4,633,621 “pageviews”. Among these candidates, Harris leads the field in terms of average daily “pageviews”.

I am surprised that Klobuchar is in second place, edging both Booker and Sanders. I am even more shocked that Buttigieg’s presidential aspirations have generated more buzz than Gillibrand’s or Castro’s candidacies.

This graph fails to take into consideration each candidate’s “pageviews” per day. For example, while Sanders may have the fourth highest average daily “pageviews”, he did not announce his second presidential run until February 19,2019 and since then many people have visited his Wikipedia page.

The following stacked barplot captures each candidates share of daily “pageviews” in relation to all candidates’ “pageviews” for February 2019. Given that Delaney’s daily “pageview” average is 28, I did it not include his data in this graph.

This plot helps us visualize Wikipedia readers’ interests on each of the nine candidacies over time. It important to note that these “pageviews” are not indication of readers’ approval for a candidates’ campaign. After all, their Wikipedia pages include information that could turn-off potential supporters. But the plot demonstrates that many people are paying attention to the ever expanding group of Democratic contenders vying for their party’s presidential nomination.

Bibliography:

B. Smith and A. Gustafson. 2017. “Using Wikipedia to Predict Election Outcomes: Online Behavior as a Predictor of Voting,” Public Opinion Quarterly, 81(3): 714-735.

T. Yasseri and J. Bright. 2016. “Wikipedia traffic data and electoral prediction: towards theoretically informed models,” EPJ Data Science, 5(22).

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