The GenderAvenger Screen Time Index for NBC's Democratic Presidential Debates
Nonprofit shares screen time of women vs men candidates in Democratic Debates and also measures women vs men moderators in debates using Matroid’s AI facial recognition
NBC's Democratic Presidential Debate, Night Two: GA Screen Time Index Hot Takes
By all accounts, Thursday was Kamala Harris’ night. However, Biden (18.5 min) and Sanders (15 min) both had more individual and shared screen time than she did (12.3 min). This data shows how long candidates were on screen, whether they were speaking or not. Viewers may interpret who dominates screen time as an indicator of their importance.
Bernie Sanders got a lion’s share of time alone on screen with 11.3 minutes, and Harris was in a virtual tie with Buttigieg for screen attention.
Similar to the first debate night, women represented 30% of candidates on stage, but they received just 25.6% of overall screen time during this second debate.
Moderators: What a difference a day makes
Kudos to NBC (and Chuck Todd) for going from night one, which was dominated by one guy, to night two, which gave Rachel Maddow the most screen time, landing Chuck Todd in third place. With the second night’s corrective action, Chuck Todd still had the most screen time overall, but Rachel Maddow and Jose Diaz-Balart ended up with the second and third most screen time.
In terms of post-debate analysis, we must offer a note of thanks to Brian Williams who on both nights as host of the post debate analysis threw every question he had to one of the women panelists, which resulted in women’s voices being equitably heard both nights.
CNN was far less attentive to the women on its panel. On night one, the panel was 70% men talking, and on night two, the panel was 71% men talking during the 11 to midnight hour.
Summary of First Two Democratic Presidential Debates
Over the course of the two nights, three white men (O’Rourke, Biden, and Sanders) had more screen time than anyone else, followed by Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg, who were closer matches in terms of screen time.
Over both debates, women represented 30% of candidates on stage and received approximately 28% of screen time, with Harris and Warren accounting for almost half of the seconds counted.
Coming in with less than ten minutes of screen time over the course of their 2 hours on stage were Julian Castro, Michael Bennet, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Ryan, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Bill de Blasio, Eric Swalwell, Andrew Yang, and Marianne Williamson.
NBC's Democratic Presidential Debate, Night One Summary
Candidate Screen Time
Screen time was in proportion to the gender ratio of candidates on stage:
Women represented 30% of the candidates on stage and were on screen 30% of the time.
Men represented 70% of the candidates on stage and were on screen 70% of the time.
On an individual level, screen time varied. According to FiveThirtyEight:
Klobuchar spoke more than Castro, yet was on screen for less time. Similarly, Gabbard spoke more than Delaney, yet Delaney received more alone time on screen.
Beto O’Rourke received the most screen time, followed by Cory Booker and then Elizabeth Warren.
Moderator Screen Time
Chuck Todd spoke the most and was seen the most.
Rachel Maddow and Savannah Guthrie, the two women moderators, represented 40% of the moderators on stage, and their combined screen time was just 33%, a mere 2% higher than Todd.
While Lester Holt spoke less than Maddow according to FiveThirtyEight, he appeared on screen more often.
To determine if men and women got equitable screen time in the presidential debates, GenderAvenger, a nonprofit that counts gender equity in the public dialog, has teamed up with software company Matroid, a California-based startup that specializes in identifying people and objects in images and video. We monitored TV screen time for presidential candidates, debate moderators, and political commentators.
GenderAvenger is an online activist community dedicated to ensuring women are always part of the public dialog… because women’s voices count.
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