30 September 2008

Democratic Party vs. Republican Party vs. Green Party vs. Libertarian Party vs. Constitution Party (Part 1)

A grand face-off of the five major political parties of the US! Since 2004, their Google-popularity has evolved as follows:

Generally speaking, the Democratic Party (DP) narrowly bested the Republican Party (RP) though at pivotal moments the latter succeeded in rising above the former, e.g., the 2004 presidential elections (peak in October) and at the very end as we are again approaching presidential elections. Note the surge at the occasion of the 2006 elections for Congress. The Green Party was the leader among the so-called "third parties." When we look at the electoral results, these trend lines do seem to run in parallel: George Bush narrowly won re-election in 2004 and the DP became the majority party in Congress in 2006. I wonder whether the recent uptick in interest in the RP will turn out to be as consequential come election day (November 4). Of course, 2004 showed us that October is the pivotal month...

How about we perform an experiment and look at the interest in political parties in the states that right now are judged to be competitive, a.k.a. "toss-ups," starting in January? Then, we could compare the graphs with Pollster.com's presidential polls' state regression-trend-line graphs. On Pollster.com, I used the more sensitive smoothing setting and besides Obama and McCain added the third-party candidates when poll data were available: Ralph Nader (ex-Green Party, now independent), Cynthia McKinney (ex-DP, now Green Party) and Bob Barr (ex-RP, now Libertarian Party) . I realize I have to a certain extent compared apples and oranges here: parties (Google Insights) vs. candidates (Pollster.com). However, when I attempted to rectify this by adding the candidates to the Google Insights terms, this did not work: Obama and McCain's overwhelming media presence just distorted everything. In a way, I propose that searches for the parties might be a better indicator of the real, underlying political support for the candidates. It is of course also possible that the interest in the parties reflects rather on the congressional races. Anyway, let's see what the graphs told us, starting with Colorado:

The DP/Obama was ahead of the RP/McCain in general. September did see a tightening on Pollster.com but an actual overtaking of the DP by the RP in Google Insights for Search. Next is Florida:

The RP overtook the dominant DP in August (Google Insights) while Pollster.com showed McCain on top with only a tightening of the race in August. When we got to the present though, Pollster.com does point at a tie. So we had conflicting evidence here. The next "toss-up" state I tested was Indiana:

The DP was the most Google-popular through June but by September the RP had taken the lead. The opinion poll trend line however showed McCain ahead the whole time with some temporary tightening only in September. This state too offers a contrast between the two graphs.

Note that so far the "third parties" have not shown up yet in the Pollster.com graphs because they didn't cross the threshold to allow for a regression analysis. Tomorrow, I will continue this experiment with other "toss-up" states.

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