Behind TIME’s 2016 Person of the Year Reader’s Poll: The Moments That Mattered

5 minute read

As voting gets underway for the 2016 TIME Person of the Year reader’s poll, we took a look back at the moments from 2016 when this year’s poll contenders were most talked about. Though TIME’s editors make the ultimate decision as to who is the Person of the Year—the person who most influenced the news, for good or ill—the reader’s poll is a valuable window into what the world thinks about that question. This year, TIME also partnered with Opentopic and IBM’s Watson to track how the candidates made their mark on the Internet. As part of the collaboration with Fortune and TIME, Opentopic evaluated more than 62 million documents from 3.5 million online sources, which Watson’s deep-learning technology classified and sorted.

One of the insights provided by that sorting was the ability to see which day in 2016 the candidates saw the highest volume of applicable online mentions. Here they are, along with the events that may have caused those spikes:

Flint, Mich., Whistleblowers, April 20: Criminal charges were brought in the Flint water scandal.

Bernie Sanders, June 8: After Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, Sanders swore he would continue his fight.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, June 13: The night before, Hamilton won a near-record number of Tony Awards.

LeBron James, June 21: Shortly after the Cavaliers won Game 7 of the NBA finals, James’ new Nike sneaker dropped.

Nigel Farage, June 24: In the wake of the Brexit vote, the pro-“leave” advocate declared a victory.

Gretchen Carlson, July 7: The day before, the now former Fox News anchor filed suit against Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.

Diamond Reynolds, July 7: She spoke publicly about the police-shooting death of Philando Castile, which she recorded on video.

Khizr and Ghazala Khan, Aug. 3: Public dialogue about their July 28 Democratic National Convention speech peaked in the days after that first appearance.

Simone Biles, Aug. 18: In the week after she won four gold medals at the Rio Olympics, she met Zac Efron. (Yes, the volume of mentions was higher on the 18th than it was during her wins.)

The CRISPR Scientists, Aug. 18 and Oct. 5: First new research was announced, and then some people thought (wrongly) that CRISPR work would earn a Nobel Prize.

Vote here: Who Should Be TIME’s Person of the Year for 2016?

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Aug. 21: After a suicide bombing, the Turkish leader went after ISIS.

Leslie Jones, Aug. 25: The Department of Homeland Security launched an investigation into a hack of the Saturday Night Live and Ghostbuster actor’s personal website.

Megyn Kelly, Aug. 25: The second part of the Fox News anchor’s interview with Julian Assange aired.

Beyoncé Knowles, Aug. 29: The artist set a new record for awards won at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Colin Kaepernick, Sept. 2: The quarterback spoke out about his National Anthem protest.

Theresa May, Sept. 5: The day before, the British Prime Minister had spoken to the BBC about the consequences of Brexit.

Xi Jinping, Sept. 5: During the G20 Summit, which ended that day, world leaders gathered on the turf of the Chinese President.

Tim Cook: Sept. 7: The Apple CEO unveiled the iPhone 7.

Kim Jong Un, Sept. 9: Shortly before, North Korea had conducted its latest nuclear test.

Mark Zuckerberg, Sept. 9: Facebook reversed its decision to censor a famous war photograph, after uproar that started with an open letter to the social-media mogul.

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Barack Obama, Sept. 23 and 28: The President spoke about Donald Trump while celebrating the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; the next week he spoke about Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem protest, on the same day that the Senate overrode his veto of a bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia. (The President does so much every day, however, that it’s hard to judge what exactly caused these spikes.)

Hillary Clinton, Sept. 27: The candidate’s performance in the first presidential debate the night before was widely praised.

Julian Assange, Oct. 4: The WikiLeaks founder warned that he would release information that would be “relevant” to the U.S. election.

Michelle Obama, Oct. 14: The day before, the First Lady had delivered a stirring speech about Donald Trump’s comments about women.

Narendra Modi, Oct. 16: The Indian Prime Minister suggested that Pakistan is the “mothership” for terrorism.

Vladimir Putin, Oct. 20: The Russian leader made news as international controversy continued over Russia’s involvement in the war in Syria.

Samantha Bee, Nov. 1: The night before, President Obama had appeared on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

James Comey, Nov. 7: On the eve of the presidential election, the world wondered about the effect of the FBI director’s earlier announcement that agents were reviewing newly-discovered emails that might be relevant to its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Comey said before the election that the emails didn’t change his recommendation she not face charges.

Donald Trump, Nov. 9: Early that morning, the Republican nominee won the presidential election.

Marine Le Pen, Nov. 9: Donald Trump’s presidential victory in the U.S. was hailed as a good sign for Europe’s far-right leaders, including Le Pen.

See the Standings for the 2016 TIME Person of the Year Readers Poll

Voting on the reader’s choice poll ends Dec. 4, at 11:59 p.m. ET.

TIME’s Person of the Year will be revealed on Dec. 7.

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