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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

More Speaking Time: Obama or Clinton?

Q: Who gets more time during debates, Obama or Clinton?

A: Obama spoke longer in their two February debates, but Clinton had more time in their January meeting.


How do Obama and Clinton compare on airtime during the one-on-one debates? Is one getting substantially more time than the other?


The New York Times conducted analyses of the debates, measuring speaking time and number of words spoken. Sen. Barack Obama led in both categories in the two most recent one-on-one debates with Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The largest disparity was during the Feb. 26 debate in Cleveland, Ohio, when Obama spoke for 7 minutes, 34 seconds longer. He went on for 38 minutes, 17 seconds, compared with Clinton’s 30 minutes, 43 seconds.

Obama led by 3 minutes, 43 seconds during the debate at the University of Texas in Austin Feb. 21. He spoke 6,690 words in 41 minutes, 10 seconds, compared with Clinton’s 5,124 words in 37 minutes, 27 seconds.

But Clinton had a 5-minute advantage at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles on Jan. 31. She clocked 42 minutes, 38 seconds of speaking time, with a word count of 7,296. Obama’s 6,676 words were spoken in just 37 minutes, 37 seconds.

Going back to debates where they had to share a stage and camera time with as many as six other candidates, Obama and Clinton were fairly even in words spoken and length of time. For example, in the Jan. 5 debate featuring Obama, Clinton, former Sen. John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Obama led the field in words spoken, but not in total time. His 3,745 words were more than Clinton’s 3,438, but Obama spoke more quickly. His total speaking time was 19 minutes, 47 seconds, just under Clinton’s 20 minutes, 6 seconds. That’s a 19-second advantage for Clinton.

– D’Angelo Gore


"Democratic Debate: Analyzing the Details." The New York Times. 26 Feb. 2008

"Democratic Debate: Analyzing the Details." The New York Times. 21 Feb. 2008

"Democratic Debate: Analyzing the Details." The New York Times. 31 Jan. 2008  

Democratic Debate: Analyzing the Details. The New York Times. 5 Jan. 2008