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Will Google Predict The Election?

Can Google predict the election?

That’s the question we keyword research geeks really want answered.  But we’ll have to wait another day for that.

Meanwhile, we certainly can learn something about the interest and passion behind the searches for “John McCain” and “Barack Obama.”

Let’s start with head-to-head generic candidate name searches. The following graph compares last name and full name searches for the candidates during the last seven days. (Click on the graphics for a larger version).

Obama vs. McCain Google Search - Details - 11/02/08

As you can see, the volume of Obama searches (blue and yellow lines) far out pace the volume of McCain searches.

We can infer nothing about the popularity of the two candidates from these data. We can clearly see, though, that there is far more interest in Obama than in his opponent. That could be for a whole host of reasons that we cannot know from this data set.

Maybe the volume of Obama searches is due the heavy news coverage, both offline and on.  Maybe people just don’t think they know enough about Obama yet. And maybe there’s just more enthusiasm for Obama than there is for McCain. We don’t know.

Let’s see if we can nail down the enthusiasm question with a graph of “enthusiasm” related searches. This next graph compares “vote for Obama” searches with “vote for McCain” searches:

Vote For Obama vs. Vote For McCain Google Search - Detail - 11/03/08

Here we get a clearer picture of the relative enthusiasm of each of the candidates’ supporters. Presumably, most people who perform a “vote for” search are in favor of the candidate they are searching for.

There is a unique phenomenon I’ve noticed over my years of studying search queries: People often perform searches that reflect their current state of mind. If people love something, they will often express that through a search query. Thus, you often see a significant volume of “I love INSERT BRAND NAME” searches.

The same is true when they are angry or frustrated; they’ll use such statements for their searches as “INSERT BRAND NAME sucks.” Let us, then, examine the opposite of the fanboy searches: Anti-searches.

The following chart displays the volume of “Obama sucks” versus “McCain sucks” searches:

Obama Sucks vs. McCain Sucks Google Search - Details - 11/02/08

While the previous pro-candidate chart shows an enthusiasm gap in favor of Obama, this chart further backs up that notion by demonstrating a strong anti-Obama sentiment. What the last two graphs tell me is that Obama supporters are enthusiastic about voting for their candidate, while McCain supporters are more motivated in their opposition to Obama than they are in their support for John McCain.

That would be in keeping with what most of the political reporting has indicated thus far. It also bodes ill for John McCain because people who are motivated to vote for a candidate are more likely to show up at the polls than those who are motivated in opposition.

Finally, when you dig down into the regional data for the pro-candidate searches, you see that pro-Obama searches far outpace pro-McCain searches at the state level…especially battleground states such as Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

State Level Vote For Obama vs. Vote For McCain Google Searches - 11/02/08

If these searches are at all indicative of voting patterns, tomorrow will be a brutal night for Team McCain.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.

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