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How Did the Media Cover the Final 2020 Presidential Debate?

The latest data from Cision's State of the Election series reveals how global, national and local media covered the debate

Published on October 28, 2020

Cision, an industry-leading earned media communications management and media advisory platform, published the latest data from its 2020 State of the Election blog series, a weekly nonpartisan media analysis of the U.S. presidential election. In week 7 of the series, Cision highlights how the presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was covered by the media.

Within minutes of the debate ending, Google searches for “who won the debate” were at their peak. When looking at all U.S. media coverage, Cision found there are approximately 300 more mentions that claim “Trump won.”

Other key findings include:

  • 23% of the debate media coverage talked about COVID-19
  • Unlike previous debates, climate change received sizable attention – 12% of the total debate coverage
  • Russia was the most talked about topic of the debate
  • From October 16 – October 23, the debate garnered nearly 100,000 media mentions in the United States. Worldwide, there was an additional 36,000 mentions published in English.
  • Through the eyes of the global media – Biden narrowly won the debate

Cision also analyzed how local media in nine swing states judged the debate based on earned media mentions. Findings include:

  • Arizona: Biden won 38 to 32
  • Florida: Trump won 86 to 72
  • Georgia: Trump won 71 to 67
  • Michigan: Trump won 68 to 65
  • North Carolina: Biden won 51 to 50
  • Ohio: Trump won 79 to 77
  • Pennsylvania: Biden won 94 to 88
  • Texas: Trump won 166 to 122
  • Wisconsin: Biden Won 72 to 59

Publications in swing states were nearly split – 52% to 48% in favor of Trump. Trump won big in Texas and Florida. Biden won respectably in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, there was a 10-point swing from the Vice-Presidential Debate where 62% of swing state publications said Pence was the winner.

“Cision’s State of the Election series has continued to highlight the power of data, particularly the importance of analyzing information with a neutral point of view,” said Lucie Vietti-Curtis, Director of Content & Comms at Cision. “As we inch closer to Election Day, we look forward to using our own earned media monitoring tools to reveal which voter issues get an increase in coverage and how publications communicate election results.”

Global media coverage of the final 2020 U.S. presidential debate

For more from Cision’s State of the Election blog series, view the full media analysis here and subscribe to the series here.

Local media coverage in swing states

Cision is politically unaffiliated and does not endorse any political parties, platforms, campaigns or candidates.

Executive Editor