According to The Breakthrough, a project from CNN, SSRS, the University of Michigan and Georgetown University tracking Americans’ recall of news about each of the presidential candidates, coronavirus hit a record high in mentions about Trump this week, with more than three-in-five respondents mentioning it, up from fewer than two-in-five last week.
Almost all of the top words for Trump were related to coronavirus, including references to his trip to the hospital — the second most frequently used word for Trump this week — mentions of the White House, testing positive, being sick, the word “mask” and references to recovery.
No other words or topics came remotely close to the scale of coronavirus for Trump this week, but a few topics made small impressions. The back-and-forth over debates landed as a distant second as a topic, with some of those responses referring to the vice presidential debate, which took place while the survey was in the field, and others talking about the shifting news around the presidential debate originally scheduled for this week.
A few other notable words landed in Trump’s top 20 mentions. “Stimulus” made the list, following his quick turnaround on the stimulus bill, both threatening to halt talks until after the election and encouraging a bill to help the American public during the pandemic.
The topics which have disappeared from the list are also notable. No words or phrases regarding Judge Amy Coney Barrett or the Supreme Court made it into Trump’s top 50 words, even as the confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court nominee were about to begin.
Almost nine in 10 Americans said they’d heard, read or seen something about Trump recently, the highest since the project began in early July. Recall of news about former vice president Joe Biden remained near its highest level as well, with around eight in 10 saying they had heard, read or seen something about the Democratic nominee.
“Debate” has topped Biden’s list of words and topics for two weeks straight, though throughout the project, there has been more variation in Biden’s top topics than in Trump’s.
“Coronavirus” was Biden’s second most mentioned word and topic, though in both cases, it was significantly less prominent than in Trump’s recall list.
References to campaigning made up Biden’s third most popular topic, almost doubling from last week, though the number of people mentioning it was small relative to debates or the virus. “Gettysburg” — the Pennsylvania town where Biden delivered a speech on unity last week — and “speech” landed in the top 20 for the Democratic nominee, with “unity” in the 10 most frequently used new words for Biden, addressing the theme of his speech.
Positive sentiment went up slightly for both candidates this week, with sentiment around Biden remaining more positive than sentiment around Trump.