Among many other virtues, the hit HBO television show Game of Thrones is known for its robust (and ever-evolving) cast of characters. At last count, there were over 150 characters, and that’s not even including the dragons, direwolves, White Walkers, and all the other non-human characters.
Some of these characters are noble but doomed, while others are gleefully evil (and most fall somewhere in between) — but who is the fan favorite? Who, in other words, rightfully deserves to sit on the Iron Throne in viewers’ eyes?
To answer this question we relied on two main social media analyses: share of voice and emotional sentiment.
Share of Voice
We used share of voice as a way of measuring how much each character dominated the conversation surrounding the series. Although this is heavily influenced by screen (or page) time, it is useful for analyzing which major characters most capture the interest of fans.
To the right is how out it broke down for the top 18 characters. Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow exactly shared the top spot in terms of conversation volume. A song of ice and fire indeed!
But traveling down the list, we uncover some interesting findings. Sansa Stark, not often considered a true fan favorite, comes in a strong third place with 11% of the conversation. When we look at the GoT conversation over time, we see that Sansa has captured much more of the conversation as the series has progressed, likely thanks to her growing role. Conversely, Tyrion Lannister, an early favorite, has become less frequently mentioned as the series has unfolded.
But dominating the social conversation is only part of the popularity equation. The other element is how people actually feel about the characters. For this we decided to look the emotions associated with the posts about each character.
When we looked at the emotions of character-specific social posts, the picture got a little clearer and more interesting.
Daenerys holds the top spot in this analysis as well , with 52% of the conversation about her classified as joyful. This is nearly 10% higher than any other character and more than twice as much as Jon Snow, her closest competitor in terms of share of voice.
This analysis is in some ways more insightful than the share of voice analysis, because it closely connects with the traditional thinking around heroes and villains. For example, Brienne of Tarth (as close to a classic hero as the series gets in many ways) performed better here than in terms of share of voice. She may not have a huge role, but when she’s on screen she elicits joy.
Conversely, the bottom of the list reads like a who’s who of the series’ villains: Ramsay and Roose Bolton, Joffrey Baratheon, Brother Ray, and the High Sparrow. Each of these characters is routinely pilloried on social media, and that animosity is reflected here.
But Jon Snow is also toward the bottom of the list, with only 24% of posts considered joyful. So what gives? One way of answering this question is to look at the negative emotions expressed in the Jon Snow conversation: sadness, anger, disgust and fear. The discussion about Jon Snow has very little anger, fear, or disgust; it is almost all (65%) sadness. If you’ve watched the show or read the books, this probably makes sense to you. Jon Snow is a much-loved character, but he is also a fraught one. Clearly a main character, Jon Snow nevertheless fails to elicit the same positivity and support that Daenerys does.
When it comes to pure popularity, he’s no match for the Mother of Dragons.