Online political comments: Americans talk about the election through a “horse-race” lens


This study examined whether user-generated comments posted on news stories about the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign focused on candidates’ policies or on horse-race elements of the election, such as who is winning or losing. Using a quantitative content analysis (n = 1,881), we found that most comments had neither horse-race nor policy elements, but that horse-race elements were more frequent in comments than policy, mirroring what is found in news coverage. The public were more likely to “like” or “upvote” comments that contained either policy or horse-race elements, relative to other comments, although the relationship was slightly stronger for horse race.