Green Room

Let me Google that campaign for you

posted at 12:57 pm on January 14, 2012 by

If you are reading a political blog like this, the odds are you are a political junkie. Conversely, if you are reading this, you are probably not a casual voter. The discussion at political blogs is geared to the intensely interested, while campaigns ultimately want to win the casual voter.

Accordingly, political junkies might do well to look at what the casual voter knows or wants to know about the candidates. One easy way of looking at this is as close as your nearest auto-completing search engine. Here is what happens if you search for current GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney:

Those results may not surprise you, but note that Bain Capital is not among them, suggesting it is not yet part of the zeitgeist. However, the fact that Mitt Romney’s net worth is already a common topic suggests the Bain issue could enter these charts with a bullet.

Searches for Newt Gingrich, Romney’s nearest rival nationally and in the South Carolina primary, suggest that what people know or want to know about him beyond his positions is his personal baggage. If Newt were to beat the current odds and secure the GOP nomination, the casual voter may well conclude, for better or worse, that the Democrats are running the “family values” candidate for 2012. Also note that all of the chatter in political fora about the attacks from Gingrich and the Super PAC supporting him against Romney over the Bain issue are not common knowledge yet.

Next up is Rick Santorum, paired with Rick Perry for Rick Symmetry:

The results for this pair are not particularly surprising, although the gay factor is different for each when you call up the search results. Rick Santorum’s gay search results concern the socially conservative positions which are his trademark. Rick Perry’s gay search results reflect not only the socially conservative ads he ran in Iowa, but also the baseless rumors pursued by the left at the outset of his campaign. First impressions matter, though Perry’s inarticulate image is also a big factor here. On Santorum’s side of the ledger, it’s also notable how far down the list “fetus” ranks, given the politically-engaged’s chatter about liberal mockery of the way the Santorum family dealt with their deceased child. These charts also suggest that these candidate’ comments on gay and racial issues are currently more significant among casual voters (to the extent they are significant) than abortion, which features in the charts for Romney (a likely product of his frontrunner status).

Rounding out the top challengers is Ron Paul, paired with Herman Cain:

As with Romney, the interesting thing about Paul’s chart is what is not on it. The blogosphere may have discussed Ron Paul’s bigoted newsletters and conspiracy crankery, but the only coverage of them in the establishment media occurred near Christmas, when the casual voter is not paying attention. Paulians may want to theorize that the absence of these issues from the chart means people have do not care about Paul’s baggage, which is why his chart is paired with Herman Cain’s search results. If Paul’s baggage was part of the zeitgeist, it would still appear in his search results, the way Cain’s scandal still appears in his. The results reflect that many voters do not know basic facts about the Republican candidates running for president or the early primary calendar.

Finally, we come to the incumbent. The pundit class talks a lot about Barack Obama’s efforts to make 2012 a choice between him and someone to be demonized later. At this juncture, his chart suggests a referendum on how he is doing his job, particularly on the jobs issue. The chart also suggests Obamacare is still a big part of the conversation about the president, although the GOP will likely throw this away if Mitt Romney is the nominee.

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The results reflect that many voters do not know basic facts about the Republican candidates running for president or the early primary calendar.

It drives me wild, but I’m increasingly coming to accept that (to put it tactfully) low information voters run this country. People who are emotion-driven, logic-bereft, and impervious to factual data select our leaders. We need someone who can figure out how to get through to these people, or at least can manipulate them better than the Democrats can.

Laura Curtis on January 14, 2012 at 1:10 PM

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Allahpundit on January 14, 2012 at 6:20 PM

I have a slightly different take on why Cain’s scandals are reflected in his zeitgeist (so to speak) and Ron Paul’s newsletters are not. The allegations for Cain were of something HE was alleged to have done, whereas it doesn’t take much looking to conclude Ron Paul never wrote the bad parts of the ten year running newsletters that went out in the two few months periods where bad stuff went out. In other words, Cain’s scandal stuck, and newsletters ultimately written by someone else 22 years ago just aren’t considered that relevant when it comes to Ron Paul.

[Google searches cannot tell you what people care about. They can tell you what people know about or want to know about. –Karl]

windwardtack on January 14, 2012 at 1:21 PM

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