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Who won Sunday night’s Democratic debate?

According to Google, the winner is...


Andrew Couts


Posted on Jan 18, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 8:46 am CDT

Bernie Sanders may have just had his biggest night yet.

Fresh off a week of favorable polls that had the independent Vermont senator closing in—or surpassing—leading challenger Hillary Clinton in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders dominated Sunday night’s Democratic presidential debate by all available real-time metrics. 

Sanders remained the most-searched candidate on the stage—which featured former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley alongside Sanders and Clinton—throughout virtually the entire debate, according to Google‘s data.

In addition to maintaining the highest search volume, Sanders also managed to pull interest away from Clinton, based on data Google collected before and after the debate. 

On Twitter, Sanders gained a higher percentage of followers than any of the other two Democratic presidential candidates, according to Twitter’s data. He also earned more mentions throughout the night.

Beyond the Democrats, Sanders gained a greater percentage of followers than any presidential candidate of either party, while Republican frontrunner Donald Trump took second place, ahead of either Clinton or O’Malley.

Although both Sanders and O’Malley may have gained a greater percentage of followers than Clinton, the former secretary of state still crushes either of her rivals in raw follower numbers. Clinton has 5.15 million followers, while Sanders has 1.17 million, and O’Malley enjoys approximately 125,000. (Trump, in case you’re wondering, has them all beat, with 5.73 million followers.)

The most talked-about moment of the debate—the only one in which Clinton spiked past Sanders in Google searches—came just after 10pm ET, as the two sparred over Wall Street reform. 

Sanders commanded the conversation on anonymous social media app Yik Yak as well, where he took 42.7 percent of all mentions, followed by Clinton’s 35.1 percent and O’Malley’s 22.2 percent, according to data shared with the Daily Dot.

Yik Yak

Yik Yak users also posted more favorable sentiments about Sanders than Clinton, with Sanders carrying an average 48 percent approval rating versus Clinton’s 7.6 percent approval among Yik Yak users. 

Sanders’ disapproval rating on the platform was 27.7 percent to Clinton’s 52.5 percent.

Yik Yak

Sunday night’s debate comes just 15 days before the first real votes of the 2016 election, when Iowans caucus on Feb. 1 to choose their picks for both the Republican and Democratic nominees. The next Democratic debate will not be held until Feb. 11, after both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, which will take place on Feb. 9. 

Will this debate performance be enough to thrust Sanders firmly into the frontrunner position? Watch the full debate below, and decide for yourself.

Update 12:06am CT, Jan. 18: Added data from Yik Yak.

Screenshot via NBC News/YouTube

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*First Published: Jan 18, 2016, 2:18 am CST