The Google Primary-A New Top Five, Beto Mania and Showers, Growers and Sustainers

Surprising nobody who reads the news, over the last week, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign announcement drove intense Google search interest.

That said, Beto’s announcement was not the only big shake-up this week in the Top 5 candidates in the Google Primary: two candidates you may not have even hard of joined the top tier this week.

Over the long term, it remains to be seen which candidates are able to grow and sustain interest in their candidacies in the face of Trump’s ongoing spectacle. Below I propose a method to look at this longer-term trend in the Democratic field.

The big story: Beto for America

Beto received more than 4x times the search interest of his closest rival, Bernie Sanders, and 1.4x the interest as President Trump himself.

Image adapted from a Beto for America Facebook Ad

This is the strongest Democratic announcement week interest thus far, as compared to Trump, with Kamala Harris and Sanders both also drawing more attention than Trump during their respective announcement weeks.

Google Trends — Beto vs. Trump

While Beto’s bump in search traffic was large, it was also a continuation of initial interest spikes following each other major candidate Democratic campaign announcement in 2019.

Flag: As I noted this week on Twitter, looking at Google Trends for data on Beto is a little tricky. You need to look for “Beto” not his full name to capture the full picture. (Ed. Note: Nate Silver picked this tip up the following day.)

It remains to be seen how this focus and interest in Beto’s candidacy — and all the others as well — sustains itself over the coming weeks.

The Top Five: A Big Shake-Up

Along with Beto, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang each received more search interest this week than the other announced competitors for the Democratic nomination.

Google Trends In the Last Week

Both Buttigieg and Yang made the Top 5 this week for the first time. Part of both of the surge in interest for them flowed from their announcements that they met the DNC’s 65,000 donor challenge to be included in debates. Buttigieg also made big news as part of CNN Town Hall.

Senators Harris and Elizabeth Warren now sit just outside the Top 5, when they previously had been in the top group.

I removed Beto from the above chart because his announcement spike make the scale too large and unreadable for the other candidates.

Of course, this is just one week of data. What about longer term trends for these candidates?

The Long Run: Growers, Showers and Sustainers

All major Democratic candidates get an initial spike of interest that trails off to one degree or another, but initial spikes are not always predictive of ongoing search interest.

Less well-known or covered candidates like Buttigieg and Yang barely — if at all — get a bump in interest initially, but have been able to work their way into the Top Five as of this week.

I’m currently sorting the Democrats into three categories: Growers, Showers and Sustainers:

  • Growers: Candidates whose general trend is toward increased search interest over time and who have reached 10% or more of Trump’s interest level. Currently: Buttigieg and Yang. (Light green in the below chart)
  • Sustainers: Candidates who had substantial (10% or more) normalized interest in their campaign announcement and who have been able to sustain and/or reattain that 10% outside of their initial announcement and/or formal announcement events. Currently: Sanders, Harris, Warren, Booker, and Gabbard. (Light blue on the chart below)
  • Showers: Candidates who had substantial (10% of more) normalized interest in their campaign announcement and — outside coverage of their announcement or formal announcement event — have not yet re-attained that level of interest. Currently: Beto, Klobuchar, Gillibrand, and Castro. (Light yellow below)
  • Other Candidates: Those candidates who have not reached any of the above distinctions. Currently: Inslee and Hickenlooper (Yes, I know I am missing some candidates like Delaney and Williamson — sorry, I just haven’t gotten there yet!) (Gray below)
Normalized Weekly Google Trends Data

How I did this:

  • First, I collected weekly search data for every candidate and normalized it using Trump’s interest index for each respective week.
  • Next, I sorted the data so each candidate’s announcement week aligned in a single column on the far left, so we could see each candidate’s progress from their respective announcement.

This story is the latest in my continuing look at Google Trends data in the 2020 Democratic primary campaign. Find the rest on my Medium profile here and follow me on Twitter here.

Political Strategy for a digital world. Founder and President at Measured Campaigns

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