Google is the world's most successful search engine for
several reasons, one of those reasons being the site's uncanny ability to
direct you to the most relevant and popular items related to whatever it is
When looking up some of the leading candidates in the 2012
Election, Google will (as it does for all searches) provide an instant snapshot
of popular related searches. You know what we're talking about here: those
always fun "suggested searches."
According to Google, the searches (which are periodically updated) that appear in your
suggestion box as you begin to type in an item "are algorithmically determined
based on a number of purely objective factors (including popularity of search
terms) without human intervention." In plain English: Google makes sure that the most popular and frequently searched terms for each candidate appear in the drop-down suggestion box.
So join us as we take a look at the 2012 GOP field, and what
the Google profile of the candidates looks like.
Looking up Romney returns a
variety of suggested results, first among them the former Bain
Capital CEO's net worth (for the record it lies "somewhere above $200 million")
and that infamous tale of the Romney family dog's unfortunate car ride all those years ago. Popular searches include links to Romney's
Twitter page, and Romney's wife. We're still trying to figure out the skinny jeans thing though.
Perry's top search result is "gay," which is in reference to the Governor's stance on issues like gay marriage. A bit further down on the
list is "secession" which seems to be related to Perry's 2009 comments
suggesting Texas may secede from
the union as a result of federal policies. "Evolution," "prayer," and
"Democrat" are all among the most popular Perry-related items...and all items
that could spell trouble for Perry in a general election (or primary for that
The former Pizza magnate is notable for
having a link to his official website as the top related-search to his name on
Google. The following queries paint a diverse, and often
confusing, portrait of the ever quotable Cain. Pokemon, Imagine (in reference
to his contribution to John Lennon's musical legacy), and the infamous 999 plan
are all brought up. We are going to go out on a limb and suggest that these
results suggest those googling Cain are not always in the neighborhood for a
serious policy discussion, just a hunch.
Ron Paul's Google results are reflective of how
many in his base like to imagine themselves: wonky in every sense of the word.
No there's nothing here about skinny jeans or Pokemon, it is a litany of
policy-related items and searches for quotes and poll numbers. Of course
there's that pesky "racist" item down at the bottom, but hey: can't please all
of the people all of the time. All in all however, Paul's results are almost
uniformly legitimate research-related. This potentially reflects well on how
seriously many Googlers take him, even if they don't plan on voting for him.
Bachmann's number one suggested search is related to her
husband Marcus, which for a myriad of reasons that we won't dive into
here is most likely not a good thing for the Minnesota Congresswoman. In fact,
very few of the suggested results for Bachmann reflect well on the controversial
Oval Office hopeful. Searches related to slavery, "crazy," and that infamous
corn dog are all among the hot items when it comes to Bachmann. These usually
are not the things you look up when you're considering "do I want this person
in charge of nuclear warheads?" Or maybe this is exactly what you should
be looking up when pondering that question...
He's a historian, he's Mr. Speaker, he's no scientist...he's
got some strange suggested Google searches. The top suggested-related search
for Gingrich is 4chan, in relation to a fun little internet prank
involving Gingrich from earlier this year. Other searches include "Tiffany" in
references to the former Speaker's proclivity for expensive candlesticks and
napkin rings, and Twitter...which could be in reference to either Gingrich's actual
Twitter page or the mini-scandal that blew up around it this past summer and was eventually squashed.
Poor Jon Huntsman, even his Google results are boring and
usually related to someone else entirely. When the thing most people googling
you want to read about isn't you at all, but rather your father, chances are
you're not exactly a hot topic of conversation. Twitter is once again a hot
topic here, as is net worth (people on Google really are obsessed with other
people's wives and bank accounts). A few more policy-specific searches turn up,
such as Huntsman's liberal-for-a-Republican stances on abortion, evolution, and
Santorum is perhaps most famous for the top page that comes
up when you Google the single word "Santorum." We will not describe here, nor
will we link to it, just don't say we didn't warn you. The rest of the former
Pennsylvania Senator's results have largely to do with his well-known hardline
stances on morality issues such as homosexuality and abortion. Love Santorum or
hate him, chances are if you're reading up on him it's not because you want to
know his position on tax code reform or the environment. Santorum has
positioned himself as almost exclusively a social issues candidate, and the
results reflect that.
And just in case you were wondering what a search for President Obama turns up, the results are not all that shocking. Searches for the President's official Twitter and Facebook pages are hot items, as are his approval rating and quotes. Looks like that "No Drama Obama" moniker carries over to Google too.
Of course it is important to remember that we are dealing with data here, and a quick look at what some of the most popular related searches for each candidate proves to be rather revealing. For instance, of the nine candidates we looked at the term "quotes" was among the top suggestions for seven of them; six of the nine had "twitter" as a popular related search; and five of the nine were commonly searched for along with the word "gay." The next most popular terms were "wife," "net worth," and "abortion." Conspicuously absent from these searches are terms like "economy," "jobs," and "unemployment." You remember those words, they're the things all the experts keep telling you this election is "all about."