React: The Republican Presidential Debate Set Social Alight

On Wednesday night we saw a three hour political face-off, as the race for the Republican presidential nomination heated up at the CNN debate hosted in California.

The second of the series of debates, with 11 people on stage but notably only one woman, Carly Fiorina, was often a discordant affair – with topics up for discussion ranging from abortion, national security, climate change and marijuana.

We’ve reported before on how social media told us that more people wanted to punch Donald Trump than vote for him. Has this now changed? Spoiler alert – probably not, no.

The data breakdown

As you’d expect the conversation around the debate online was huge, garnering over one million mentions, with the hashtag #CNNDebate accumulating more than 626,000.

Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina ran away with the conversation.

Bush was mentioned more than 39,000 times, while Fiorina was close behind with 37,000 mentions.


When analyzing who was driving the conversation, men held the majority of unique Twitter authorship at 59% of authors.


“He kept us safe.”

The debate had a few stand-out moments, and thousands watching along at home took to their keyboards to comment on them.

When we look at the entire conversation minute-by-minute, we can see that the moment that received the most mentions was when Jeb Bush referred to his brother’s presidency and stated, “He kept us safe.”

This sole minute resulted in over 5,300 mentions.

The moment that received the second was when Carly Fiorina addressed Donald Trump over his offensive comments on her appearance, seeing over 4,900 mentions.

The third peak belonged to Bush again as he admitted to smoking marijuana (albeit 40 years ago) and saw a spike of more than 4,500 mentions.

Interestingly enough, peak mentions of the #CNNDebate hashtag occurred at the same moment Fiorina addressed Trump and his comments about her.

The hashtag was used over 4,700 times in that moment.


Who came out on top?

Over half (54.5%) of sentiment-recognized mentions were positive.

When we examine each candidate’s sentiment, we can see that Carly Fiorina had the most positive sentiment as 72% of her sentiment-categorized mentions were positive – at no point during the debate did her positive sentiment fall out of the 70s.

Fiorina is then followed by Marco Rubio with 68% of positive categorized mentions, and John Kasich with 61%.

The most negative sentiment belonged to Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, as 59% of their categorized mentions were negative, followed by Donald Trump at 54% and Ben Carson at 52%.

The most mentioned Twitter handles within this conversation belong to Carly Fiorina, whose handle accumulated more than 1.6 billion impressions. 5 She’s followed by Donald Trump whose handle registered over 682 million impressions, and Marco Rubio whose handle accrued more than 480 million impressions.

We’ll be tracking all of the debates to come. Follow @bw_react to keep up.