Show an ad over header. AMP

Melania Trump and Michelle Obama dominated social media engagement during the 2020 conventions

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The most viral stories about the Republican convention were largely about non-political speakers, while the Democratic convention stories focused on the political leaders who were the official stars of the convention, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.

Why it matters: The GOP convention in particular highlighted how speakers from outside of the political arena who haven't been bloodied and bruised by political fights were most effective at setting social media on fire.


  • Both conventions got roughly the same amount of online attention — roughly 50 million social media interactions (likes, comments, shares) on related stories. But the most viral stories about the two conventions showed a big difference in the interests of their online audiences.

By the numbers: The current and previous First Ladies generated the most viral stories at both conventions. Melania Trump was the favorite among right-leaning social media audiences during the Republican convention, just as Michelle Obama dominated social media during the Democratic convention.

But while Obama won attention for her indictment of President Trump, Melania Trump's online audience saw criticism of her as an example of hypocrisy from the left:

  • Five of the 100 most-viral stories from the RNC were about Bette Midler tweeting that the First Lady is an "illegal alien" who "still can't speak English." (Midler later tweeted: "I was wrong to make fun of her accent.")
  • Other headlines from conservative media applauded her: "Gracious Melania Offers Unifying RNC Speech In Contrast With Michelle Obama’s Dark DNC Speech" (Daily Wire) and "First lady lends grace to Trump’s reelection bid" (Washington Times).

Between the lines: While politicians and other figures in the Trump administration may get the most media coverage, it was the Republican convention speakers from outside of politics who generated the most social media interactions at the grassroots level.

  • Herschel Walker's remarks that "I have seen racism up close. I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump," caught fire on right-wing media.
  • So did the speech from Maximo Alvarez — an immigrant who fled from Cuba — who delivered an indictment of communism.

The other side: Even for left-leaning audiences, figures from outside of the regular drumbeat of political news caught readers' attention.

  • The biggest RNC story circulating on liberal media was that speaker Abby Johnson, a prominent anti-abortion activist, earlier this year called for one vote per household where "in a Godly household, the husband would get the final say."
  • Other big storylines on the left included the endorsement of Joe Biden by GOP figures including Jeff Flake and former John McCain staffers.
  • This analysis focuses on the top 100 stories from both conventions. For the most recent stories, it uses predicted interactions to estimate where the engagement will end up, based on whether the stories were gaining or losing traction.

The bottom line: There was a significant disconnect between the stories that animated the political class and the ones that lit up millions of social media users.

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's violation of norms by addressing the convention from Jerusalem and Nikki Haley as a possible future GOP presidential candidate got very little traction.

Biden campaign plans travel around competitive Senate races

Joe Biden's campaign is storming states with competitive Senate races this week to help boost Democratic candidates in the run-up to the election.

Why it matters: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death is galvanizing Democrats to fight harder for control of the Senate with less than two months before Election Day.

Keep reading... Show less

Harry Reid on eliminating filibuster: It's a matter of "when," not "if"

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday addressed the question of whether Democrats will eliminate the legislative filibuster if they take control of the Senate, telling CNN that it's "not a question of if it's going to be gone, it's only when it's going to be gone."

Why it matters: Current Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said that "nothing is off the table" if Republicans move ahead with replacing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election — a threat that likely includes abolishing the Senate's long-standing 60-vote threshold in order to pass sweeping legislation.

Keep reading... Show less

Philly official warns of "electoral chaos" in Pennsylvania due to "naked" mail-in ballots

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court ordered state officials last week to throw out mail-in ballots submitted without a required inner "secrecy" envelope in November's election, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The state of play: The decision went under the radar alongside the simultaneous decision to extend the time that mail-in ballots could be counted, but Philadelphia's top elections official warned state legislators this week that throwing out so-called "naked ballots" could bring "electoral chaos" to the state and cause "tens of thousands of votes" to be thrown out — potentially tipping the presidential election.

Keep reading... Show less

Commission releases topics for first presidential debate

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has selected what topics he'll cover while moderating the first presidential debate between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden next week.

What to watch: Topics for the Sept. 29 debate will include Trump and Biden's records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, economic policy, racism and the integrity of the election, the Commission for Presidential Debates announced on Tuesday. Each topic will receive 15 minutes of conversation and will be presented in no particular order.

Keep reading... Show less

"A long way to go": Fed chair warns economy will feel the weight of expired stimulus

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday that the expiration of Congress' coronavirus stimulus will weigh on the U.S. economy.

Why it matters: Powell warned that the effects of dried-up benefits are a looming risk to the economy, even if the consequences aren't yet visible.

Keep reading... Show less

Beijing draws Chinese companies even closer

Chinese Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping announced last week that the party must strengthen its leadership over private companies, and that entrepreneurs must meet the party's needs. 

Why it matters: Xi's new announcement will increase fears that Chinese businesses may serve as a Trojan horse for the CCP.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump to meet with Supreme Court candidate Barbara Lagoa in Florida on Friday

President Trump has arranged to meet with shortlisted Supreme Court candidate Barbara Lagoa during a campaign visit to Florida on Friday, according to two sources familiar with his plans.

What we're hearing: Sources who know both Trump and Lagoa say they still expect the president to pick Judge Amy Coney Barrett, but they view the Lagoa meeting as a wild card because they say she has a charismatic personality that would appeal to Trump.

Keep reading... Show less

The U.S. now has more then 200,000 coronavirus deaths

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Axios Visuals

The coronavirus has now killed 200,000 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: Whatever contextyou try to put this in, it is a catastrophe of historic proportions — and is yet another reminder of America's horrific failure to contain the virus.

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories