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Women candidates, on average, spoke more than men in the Democratic debates

The two candidates who spoke the most across both debates were Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks as Sen. Cory Booker (L) (D-NJ) and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke look on during the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks as Sen. Cory Booker (L) (D-NJ) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) look on during the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019, in Miami.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

With 10 Democratic candidates onstage at each Democratic debate, every person was expected to get an estimated 12 minutes each. According to analyses by the Washington Post, it didn’t exactly wind up being that equitable.

While this isn’t particularly shocking, given how much candidates were scrambling to make themselves heard on a crowded stage, the breakdowns show that women candidates ultimately spoke more, on average, than men. It’s a dynamic that likely speaks to the fact that multiple women, namely Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, were among the frontrunners speaking on both nights.

Across Wednesday and Thursday, male candidates on average spoke for 7.9 minutes each, while female candidates spoke for 8.1 minutes each — a slight difference, but a notable one.

Specific candidates who spoke the most were a mix of some of the other higher-ranking figures in recent polling and others who’ve been trying to break through: The top four across the two nights, according to the Post tracker, were former Vice President Joe Biden, leading with 13.6 minutes of speaking time; Harris, with 11.9 minutes; Sen. Bernie Sanders, with 11.0 minutes; and Sen. Cory Booker, with 10.9 minutes.

Given how many more male candidates there were than female ones in both debates, men spoke for much more time than women in total: 110.6 minutes, compared with 48.8 minutes for the women candidates.

Booker’s and Julián Castro’s speaking times during the first debate reflect strong breakout moments for two of the men of color, who have been respectively searching for opportunities to bolster their standings in the polls. Booker on Wednesday emphasized his leadership on criminal justice reform and racial justice. Castro, meanwhile, dominated a conversation about immigration policy and advocated for the repeal of an immigration law that makes “illegal entry” into the US a crime.

Similarly, Harris made a major impression with her debate performance Thursday night, cementing her status as a frontrunner, despite stalling in some recent polls.

FiveThirtyEight and NPR both did similar analyses on word count and speaking time and found relatively similar results to the Post’s.

The debates this week marked the first time there was more than one female candidate participating in a presidential debate stage in US history, with Warren, Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and author Marianne Williamson included.