Google Trends 2020 Primary, Part 3: Five Democratic Candidates, Including both Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, Broke Trump Interest Levels in Their Announcements
This is my third look at Google Trends data from the early part of the 2020 Democratic primary campaign. Check out my profile to see more!
The historic high levels of Google Search interest in President Donald Trump is remarkable — and quite honestly scary.
As seen below, Trump has uniquely captured the attention — both positive and negative — of the American people since his candidacy began and continuing through today.
The scary part is that he’s done so more so than any recent President or Presidential candidate and shows no sign of slowing down. Yale Historian Timothy Snyder, the author of Trump era books On Tyranny and The Road to Unfreedom, might bring up the concept of “spectacle” in looking at this data.
The Importance of Breaking Through
With that as context, the need of a Democratic candidate to break through and capture people’s attention in an ongoing way will be a critical piece of reaching the American people and winning in 2020. And we know from recent Monmouth polling that Democrats in particular are focused on wanting a candidate who can beat Trump in 2020.
Looking at Democratic candidates ability to break through this Trump line of attention in their campaign announcements is an early signal of one’s ability to do this with intentionality. Candidate announcements are the first chance for a campaign to draw as much attention and interest as possible. This interest is translated into the ability to communicate a message, raise name ID, get volunteers and fundraise.
Detailed Google Trends charts are further below, but as a summary I have compiled this chart and indexed each candidate’s level of interest on announcement day vs. Trump in rank order.
Five Democrats Broke Through in Their Announcements
Only five candidates broke the Trump level of interest on the day of their announcements: Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Tulsi Gabbard.
Harris and Sanders stand out in this group with over 2x the level of search interest with Warren and Booker both slotting into the 3rd and 4th spots at similar levels.
Gabbard also might be surprising to some at this level of interest. I won’t comment directly on the Russian bots discussion but I will refer you to this NBC report and let you judge for yourself whether this might have impacted these numbers. (Ed. Note: As a friend on Twitter pointed out after publication of this post, this traffic could also be driven by the divisiveness of Gabbard’s positions in the Democratic electorate, especially things like Syria and her past statements on LGBTQ+ rights.)
Of course there are many factors feeding into this measure like traditional media coverage on TV and newspapers, prior name ID, paid media driving interest, etc. that make this an imperfect raw indicator. And this primary process will be a marathon not a sprint, so this is a just an initial snapshot.
More Information for Reference
Here are the Trends reports covering the week of the candidates announcements. The data from the table above only comes from the day of the announcement, i.e. the peak, in the below charts.