LAS VEGAS – Bernie Sanders won a major victory in Tuesday night’s first Democratic debate, according to polls, focus groups, media experts, independent analysts and social media analytics.
On CNN, which sponsored the debate, a majority in a post-debate focus group said Sanders was the victor. The Vermont senator was the most popular candidate among a group of young registered Democrats in a Fusion focus group. “Bernie was on fire the whole night,” according to a 24-year-old named Chauncey who told Fusion he went into the debate undecided. And on Fox News, pollster Frank Luntz talked to Democratic voters in Florida who called him “strong” and “straightforward” and “powerful.”
More than one hour after the debate ended, in a Time magazine online poll, 68 percent said Sanders won. Clinton was in second place with 16 percent. A U.S. News & World Report poll had Sanders the clear victor with 84 percent of the vote. Seventy-four percent of Slate readers said Sanders won.
In the mainstream media, the headline on a Chicago Tribune editorial was: Bernie Sanders’ night: Authenticity wins the Democratic debate. Salon’s Colin McEnroe wrote: This was Bernie Sanders’ night: The candidate of anger and honesty won the Democratic debate. Forbes said Bernie Sanders Clearly Won The Democratic Debate — On Twitter.
On social media, where Sanders’ grassroots revolution began, there were more Google searches for Sanders than for any other candidate. He was the most retweeted candidate of the night, according to Twitter. He gained more followers on Twitter than any other candidate and Twitter said people talked about Sanders more than any other candidate online.
Facebook said Sanders had the “biggest social moment” of the debate. Twitter agreed. Both said online interest peaked when Sanders said relentless news media focus on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails were a distraction from more important issues. “What the Secretary said is right. And that is the American people are tired of hearing about your damn emails,” Sanders said. Instead, he added, this campaign should be about the grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality in our country, the unprecedented planetary emergency of our changing climate, and our need to invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration.
Online, BernieSanders.com broke our own record for the website’s biggest day ever. Offline, the campaign had helped organize more than 4,000 debate-watch parties attended by more than 100,000 people in homes, union halls, bars and college campuses from coast to coast.
The campaign also experienced a fundraising bonanza. More than $1.3 million was raised in the first four hours after the debate began. There were more than 37,600 individual contributions. The average donation during that four-hour stretch was $34.58. There was about $100,000 in the five minutes after the debate ended. At the peak, there were 10.25 contributions per second.
Sanders shared the stage with the former secretary of state, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia and Lincoln Chafee, the former governor and U.S. senator from Rhode Island.