02 November 2008

Obama vs. McCain vs. Palin vs. Biden in the Last Month: Details

A post on the FiveThirtyEight.com blog (Google Traffic Suggests McCain Not Grabbing Voters' Attention) today looked up the Google-popularity of McCain and Obama, using Google Trends. The author wondered about the context of the Obama searches: maybe they were people looking for dirt, i.e., "proof" for the many slanderous allegations? Well, there's a way to a least get an idea of that and more: use Google Insights for Search
—my standard analysis tool.

I also included Palin and Biden to complete the presidential election picture. This graph showed again that Obama has been in the lead for the past month. Palin at times peaked higher than Obama and was most of the time more Google-popular than McCain. Except for his vice presidential debate, Biden led a quiet life out of the big spotlight ;-) Now, let's have a look at the details underlying this graph. First, the geographical differences for the candidates; then the context of the candidates' searches.
I started with Obama's regional search patterns:

The following states were the most interested in him: New Mexico, Colorado and North Carolina. The remainder of the top 10 were also seen as battleground states at one time or another, except of course the District of Columbia and Illinois. How was McCain's list?

Ohio, New Mexico and Pennsylvania led the top 10. Further down though, the battleground states didn't dominate with McCain: only three more. Furthermore, his home state Arizona wasn't in the top 10. Interesting... Next: Palin.

Her top three was made up of Alaska, Vermont and Oregon: all non-battleground states. In the remaining seven there was similarly only one state that could be called a battleground (Colorado). This seemed to point at her appeal being more as a celebrity than in the strict context of the campaign. Finally, where was Biden the most searched?

Delaware, Vermont and Alaska led his list. Maybe a lot of people in Alaska were trying to find out what their governor was up against? The only battleground state the Democratic VP candidate was Google-popular: Pennsylvania. he has been campaigning a lot there if I'm not mistaken.

In conclusion, Obama was the one who evoked he highest interest in the battleground states. That being said, in what light was he being searched: positive or negative? Here's the list of most common search terms for Obama:

The top 10 was basically positive with searches focusing on the race, polls and debates. The second list on the right shows the "rising" searches, i.e., searches that saw the fastest growth spurt but were not in the top 10. Nos. 4-8 were rather negative: (false) accusations of him not being qualified in a legal sense to run, the ACORN voter registration fraud allegations, the tenuous connection with a '60s terrorist. All in all, the rising searches displayed a half positive (Powell, ...), half negative interest. Republican mud-slinging had only a limited impact. On to his opponent, McCain:

His top 10 was similar to Obama: positive. The "risers" were also all basically positive. Next, Palin.

Five of her top 10 searches related to Tina Fey's parody of her on Saturday Night Live. I don't think that can be classified unequivocally as positive. The other five were the typical contexts of the campaign, debate, etc. When it came to rising searches, about half of them to had a connection with SNL. Last but not least ;-) , Senator Biden...

A basic, positive top 10 was accompanied by as much as four rising searches about the SNL sketch parodying the VP debate.

Clearly, the searches were mostly about the campaign except for some following up on accusations against Obama and regarding the Palin SNL saga.

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