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Trump Narrows Word of Mouth Sentiment Gap With Biden

Published by Engagement Labs August 17, 2020

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Public opinion polls show former Vice President Biden with a commanding and consistent lead over President Trump. Word of mouth sentiment, however, tells a different story. On the eve of the Democratic Convention (and just prior to the announcement of Kamala Harris as the Democratic VP nominee), a fascinating word of mouth story has emerged, one that suggests a tightening race.

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noted recently, “It’s Way Too Soon To Count Trump Out” despite his commanding lead in the polls. Our sentiment trend lends credence to that statement. Word of mouth sentiment has proven to be a leading indicator of voter behavior, including in 2016.

Both candidates are in negative net-sentiment territory, as is typical for word of mouth about presidential candidates. Biden’s net sentiment is at –19, 5 points ahead of Trump who is at – 24. What is notable is that Trump’s net sentiment has risen by 31 points versus two weeks ago, erasing what had been a very wide gap (50 points at its peak two weeks ago).


The gender gap is in clear display, with a net sentiment gap of 24 points in Biden’s favor among women, and 4 points in Trump’s favor among men. For much of May, June and July men were more favorable about Biden and just this week there was a large surge among men in Trump’s favor.

WOM Sentiment Gap - Women vs Men


The toss up states* are very much a toss up

Looking by state that lean Democratic vs. lean Republican vs. toss up states, Democratic leaning states show a large net sentiment advantage for Biden, while Republican leaning states show an equally large net sentiment advantage for Trump.

The toss up states show the two neck-and-neck, both with very low net sentiment. The trend for these states will be the numbers to watch over the coming weeks as the campaigns move into high gear.

[Note: States are categorized into groups based on the 7/23/2020 Cook Political Report Electoral College Ratings ( For the purpose of this analysis toss up states are those who either only lean towards 1 party or are fully toss up. This represents 12 states and 193 electoral votes.]



WOM Sentiment About Congress Also Swings Toward the Republicans

As the presidential campaign moves into a higher gear, so too is the showdown between the House and Senate over an additional COVID-19 stimulus bill.

About 1 in 4 Americans talk daily about both the Democrats in Congress and the Republicans For much of June and the first half of July there was a WOM volume advantage for the Democrats, but conversation about each has grown over the past two weeks

Net sentiment has swung in favor of the Republicans in Congress. Through much of July, net sentiment about the Republicans had dropped but that has now reversed itself and the net-sentiment for Republicans is now 23 points greater than the net-sentiment for Democrats.



Why WOM Sentiment Matters

Silver’s analysis notes that the odds for a Biden victory in his analysis are identical to Hillary Clinton’s odds at this same time four years ago. What is notable to us about that is that our word of mouth sentiment trends accurately foreshadowed Clinton’s shifting fortunes in the closing weeks of the campaign, something the polls failed to pick up. Even Clinton herself took note of that when she said in her book, What Happened: According to Engagement Labs, which applies well-established consumer research techniques to study elections, ‘The change in word-of-mouth favorability metric was stunning.'

With 78 days to go before election day, it is time to buckle our seatbelts. And pay careful attention to the national conversation.


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