Twitter's Government and Elections team tracked which candidates won the most new Twitter followers during the latest Republican presidential debate. This certainly doesn't account for all voter support, but it does give us some idea of how young people responded to the fifth GOP showdown. And surprisingly enough, the most successful candidate in this regard wasn't a Republican. Bernie Sanders gained more Twitter followers during the debate than anyone on stage in Las Vegas, and that doesn't bode well for the GOP in the general election.
After Sanders, Donald Trump's following increased the most. They were trailed by Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, according to Twitter. Poor Hillary Clinton was left out of all the action. The fifth GOP debate was very chaotic, with a lot of yelling, bickering, and incoherent answers, and was actually pretty difficult to watch. So it's quite telling that so many people followed Sanders on Twitter as it went down, making it appear that an event meant to promote the Republican party was actually driving voters away. Of course, some people still loyal to the GOP could have followed Sanders out of curiosity or in an effort to stay up-to-date on the election as a whole, but they sure chose a suspicious time to do so.
This single statistic says a lot about how America received the mayhem that was the debate. Sanders was live-tweeting his dissenting opinions throughout the event, which no doubt played a role in his increased following. As the Republican frontrunner, Trump also gained a lot of Twitter followers, reaffirming his lead in the GOP race, but even he couldn't outshine Sanders on social media. When someone outperforms Trump on Twitter, you know it's serious.
If the GOP debates continue to be free-for-alls, the party's odds for taking the White House in 2016 will become slimmer, as voters get tired of watching the numerous Republicans battle one another for attention and camera time. Though TV ratings might be high due to all the drama, those watching are supporting Democrats online. Twitter has spoken, and it favors Sanders.