Digital Influencer Insights on Final 2016 Presidential Debate

During last night’s debate, Rational 360 analyzed which people, topics and tweets were resonating with influencers the most. During the debate, influencers tweeted 5.8 percent more than they did during the second debate last Monday, and 7.7 percent less than they did during the first debate last month. The top tweet for DC influencers was a Frank Luntz tweet (below) showing the impact of Hillary Clinton talking about Donald Trump’s refusal to say he will support the election results.

Our firm maintains an exclusive list of 841 influencers, including members of Congress, Cabinet members, media and partisan pundits and strategists. On October 19, this index tweeted a total of 13,182 times. By monitoring the tweets of this group during the debate and in the hours surrounding it, we have identified the most retweeted tweets, and the most mentioned hashtags among these influencers.

Top Five Influencer Tweets

The five tweets below were retweeted by Rational 360’s Influencer Index more than any other tweets surrounding the debate. The most popular tweet overall during the debate was a 2013 tweet where Donald Trump asked “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?” This tweet did not register as a top tweet for DC influencers. The ones that were retweeted the most are:

1. Pollster Frank Luntz: “Voters want the candidates to support the election results. No excuses. Hillary did. Trump did not. #Debate”

2. Tablet Magazine Senior Writer Yair Rosenberg: Obama’s Kenyan half-brother wants to abolish Israel and backs Hamas, which advocates Jewish genocide. Trump is bringing him to the debate.

3. Senator Lindsey Graham: My thoughts on a ‘rigged’ presidential election. ​

4. Republican strategist Stuart Stevens: Can’t tell you how many like emails I’ve received from reporters. Reporters like to talk to those involved in their beat. It’s…reporting.

5. New York Times Political Correspondent Alex Burns: Trump campaign turning into Seinfeld finale — bringing back whole supporting cast of anti-Clinton/Obama figures from Fox/Breitbart universe

Top Five Influencer Hashtags

The five hashtags below were included in Influencer Index posts than any other hashtags. The numbers next to each hashtag reflect the percentage of overall influencer posts that included it.

1. #debatenight (5.59 percent): The primary hashtag for the debate, #debatenight was used by major news networks, the candidates themselves and surrogates. Twitter set it up with a branded emoji. Many influencers do not include debate hashtags in their tweets.

2. #debate (5.31 percent): Twitter used the same branded emoji across multiple hashtags, this was another mainstream hashtag used by a number of news outlets and surrogates alike throughout the debate.

3. #debates (0.84 percent): Another hashtag in the same grouping, #debates was used much less frequently by influencers.

4. #debates2016 (0.80 percent): The #debates2016 hashtag was used sparingly throughout the debate by the Influencer Index, in comparison to other debate hashtags.

5. #ImWithHer (0.34 percent): The only candidate-specific hashtag in the top five, #ImWithHer serves as an evergreen rallying cry for Hillary Clinton’s supporters.

Conversation Topics

The top words used by influencers are included in a word cloud below. Aside from the names of Trump, Clinton and Wallace, and trending hashtags, top topics among influencers included:

1) Trump’s refusal to say whether he would respect election results, with words like “rigged”, “accept” and “results” all being among the most tweeted;

2) The candidates discussing treatment of women; and

3) Taxes.

These were similar to Twitter’s overall most tweeted moments of 1) Trump and Clinton discuss treatment of women; 2) Trump refuses to say if he will accept election results; and 3) Conversation about Russia and nuclear weapons. The word cloud below represents the most mentioned words by the Influencer Index on October 19:


​October 19 Influencer Tweet Frequency

As we have seen across debates this year, conversation peaked between 9 and 10 p.m., eastern time, and quickly tailed off. Influencers tweeted 5.8 percent more than they did during the second debate last Monday, and 7.7 percent less than they did during the first debate last month. Tweets yesterday were up 44 percent over an average October day among this group. ​



During the first week of November, in the lead-up to Election Day, Rational 360 will release its first full DC Influencer Index looking back at October – digging more deeply into what drove influencer conversation leading up to the election.

Click here to sign up to receive these email alerts monthly right now.

Rational 360’s DC Influencer Index comprises 841 influencers in the policy and political space, including 531 official accounts of members of Congress, 37 Cabinet heads and departmental accounts, 109 members of the media and 82 Democratic and 82 Republican pundits, experts and strategists influential in online conversations.

Rational 360 is a full-service bipartisan strategic communications and digital agency with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle. The firm provides strategic counsel, executes sophisticated communications programs, and directs creative and effective public affairs campaigns that change perceptions and advance client agendas. Known for its campaign-style approach, Rational 360 executes communications strategies with urgency, speed, and a relentless emphasis on outcomes.

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