By: Dan Gaynor, Head of Strategic Solutions at Signal AI

The first article of this series came swiftly after Super Tuesday and Biden’s State of the Union address. After Nikki Haley formally dropped out of the running (and stiffed Trump on an endorsement), the tug-of-war presidential race is officially set. 

So, what’s new regarding the presidential communications strategy for the candidates and their respective parties? What has been landing, and where are the gaps in their messaging?

In this article, we used data from the live U.S. Elections tracker to pull the most interesting findings for March. If you missed it, you can explore the findings from our recap in February here.

Key takeaways:

Finding 1: Democrats gain momentum over Republicans in Share of Voice, but Republicans receive 14% more headlines

Chart 1: Share of Voice (SoV) Comparing Political Parties (1); Headline Dominance of Trump vs. Biden (2) and Political Parties (3), March 2024 (source: Signal AI data)
Chart 1: Share of Voice (SoV) Comparing Political Parties (1); Headline Dominance of Trump vs. Biden (2) and Political Parties (3), March 2024 (source: Signal AI data)

Polarizing and high-voltage topics, such as abortion rights (particularly in Florida), illegal immigration and border control, foreign policy debates with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu, plus Trump’s legal battles, most likely swayed coverage back and forth on the pendulum this month. 

Overall, the gap between Trump and Biden widened. Biden grabbed 7% more headlines than Trump (Chart 1, Fig. 2), and for Biden, this marked a 4% increase when compared to February. 

However, when comparing political parties, the Republican Party still receives 13.8% more headline mentions than the Democratic Party (Chart 1, Fig. 3).

Chart 2: Share of Voice (SoV) on critical issues, comparing Dem. and Rep. parties, March 2024 (source: Signal AI data)
Chart 2: Share of Voice (SoV) on critical issues, comparing Dem. and Rep. parties, March 2024 (source: Signal AI data)

When examining Share of Voice on critical issues in the chart above, including Fitness for Office, Security, Social Issues, and the Economy, Republicans cede ground to the Democrats on all fronts – except The Economy

Critical events in March related to the Economy were coverage of Trump’s social media platform Truth Social (and its plummeting stock price), comparisons of the campaign funding for Trump vs. Biden, and young voters’ concerns for the future. (While it proved fodder for Weekend Update, Trump selling branded ‘God Bless the USA’ Bibles for $59.99 didn’t make waves either way.)

Finding 2: Sentiment improved slightly for both candidates. However, Republicans maintain a net sentiment (NS) score nearly 2x as low as Democrats.

Democrats saw a sentiment boost in discussions concerning Fitness for Office, security, and social issues (Chart 2). According to the data, Biden is effectively shedding doubts about his energy and intellect. 

For Republicans, negative sentiment regarding Fitness for Office discussions remains unchanged from the previous month. At the same time, the GOP’s sentiment around social issues, like women’s healthcare freedom, continues to decline.

However, for Trump, there is a glimmer of improvement. Discussions on national security and the economy show improvement. It remains to be seen if Trump can make continued headway on economic leadership amid running a publicly traded social media company that lost $58 million last year. 

Finding 3: Security remains the focal point in 76% of political discussions.

Chart 3: News Coverage by Mention Volume of Key Topics (1) and Polarization Scores (2), March 2024 (source: Signal AI data)
Chart 3: News Coverage by Mention Volume of Key Topics (1) and Polarization Scores (2), March 2024 (source: Signal AI data)

The topic of Security consumed the month of March at 76% SoV, which the Election Index defines as discussions on foreign policy, immigration/border control, and national security measures.

The Economy holds the second-largest share of voice at 13%, followed by social issues at 6% and fitness for office at 5%.

Chart 4: Polarization Scores of Key Elections Issues regarding ‘Security,’ March 2024 (source: Signal AI data)
Chart 4: Polarization Scores of Key Elections Issues regarding ‘Security,’ March 2024 (source: Signal AI data)

Democrats lead foreign policy discussions both in volume (53%, compared to 47% for Republicans) and in net sentiment (NS), with scores twice as high as Republicans (Chart 4). 

The influx of coverage on Foreign Policy could be mainly attributed to mentions of Biden’s teetering relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and migrant policies impacted by issues at the border. As the NYTimes describes Trump’s remarks, “The former president has tried to stoke fear around immigration and border security throughout his 2024 campaign, as he has done in the past.”

 Unsurprisingly, foreign policy and national security topics also emerge as the most polarizing for each party.

Finding 4: This month was relatively calm for coverage, with a 20% decrease overall. Still, discussions about the economy ramped up by 29%.

Coverage of social issues also increased by nearly 6%, while discussions on fitness for office and security decreased by 25% and 26%, respectively.

Chart 5: Biden v. Trump on Key Issues, March 2024 (source: Signal AI data)
Chart 5: Biden v. Trump on Key Issues, March 2024 (source: Signal AI data)

Biden dominates discussions about the economy, both in volume and sentiment. 

As reported by CNBC, “President Joe Biden is fighting to convince inflation-weary voters that the U.S. economy is healthy.” At the same time, the article quotes Trump from a March Georgia rally: “We are a nation whose economy is collapsing into a cesspool of ruin, whose supply chain is broken, whose stores are not stocked, whose deliveries are not coming.” 

This election, like the one four years ago, is fraught with a tug-of-war that feels like it’s splitting this country at the seams. Though the coverage for March was reportedly calmer waters, we have a long voyage ahead until November.

Where to go from here?

Unlike polling, which struggles to tell the whole story, AI can help us answer questions about coverage, sentiment, and an objective view of who is winning and losing the communications race.

Join us for our upcoming webinar on May 1, featuring Stephen Krupin, Managing Director & Co-Head of Executive Communications at SKDK and Former Obama Speechwriter, as we unveil insights from the Signal AI 2024 US Elections Tracker.

What is the Signal AI Elections Index?

Let’s face it – poll results aren’t a reliable barometer for understanding media coverage and sentiment in real-time. That’s why Signal AI launched the 2024 U.S. Elections Media Tracking Index. The Index distills the media conversation surrounding the U.S. election into digestible insights. 

The Signal AI U.S. Elections Index crunches tens of millions of data points to quantify media metrics and reputation for Presidential candidates across four main pillars: The Economy, National Security, Social Issues, and Fitness for Office.

Companies and campaigns can use this index to answer various questions and navigate one of the world’s most important and polarizing topics.

For companies, the Index can help you navigate tricky geopolitical discussions, and for campaigns and communicators, it can quantify where your opportunities and risks exist.

You can dig into storylines, candidates, and states more granularly, like, “What aspect of the clean energy discussion is most positive for Democrats?” or “Why is Biden seen as better for the economy?”; or “Which topics are most polarized in a specific swing state?”

Explore the index here.