The Google Primary: Behind Opposition Lines With Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris

Nationally, Google Search interest in the 2020 Democratic candidates remained mostly similar to last week, while the candidates begin grappling with a changed primary calendar and a growing field of candidates.

Image adapted from a Beto for America Facebook Ad

Beto: A Diminishing Lead Remains

Over the last 7 days, O’Rourke had substantially more interest than the field — but that interest quickly diminished over the course of the week. This is the same trend other Democrats have experienced in the weeks following their campaign announcements.

Google Trends in the Past Week

The Top Five had only one change with Kamala Harris (5th) bumping Cory Booker (now in a tie for 6th with Warren) while Beto O’Rourke (1st), Bernie Sanders (2nd), Pete Buttigieg (3rd) and Andrew Yang (4th) remained in the top group.

While he hasn’t announced (yet), Joe Biden would clock-in at 3rd in search interest this week if he were a candidate.

The past 24 hours parity in search interest suggests the coming weeks will test each candidate’s ability to draw interest and attention to their message.

Google Trends in the Past Day

Looking at the regional breakdown for the past 24 hours, we see some additional variation with Sanders (California and Vermont), Buttigieg (Iowa, Indiana and Maine) and O’Rourke (everywhere else) driving the most searches.

Behind Opposition Lines With Bernie and Kamala

This week Senators Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris campaigned behind opposition lines in California and Texas, respectively — and you can see the impact of those visits in Google Trends.

Google Trends in California

While nationally O’Rourke had higher interest than Sanders, in California Sanders’ trip drove interest in his campaign to more than 2x O’Rourke’s.

Google Trends in California by Metro

Sanders’ events were in southern California but in the regional breakdown, interest in him included both the major southern and northern California media markets.

The Los Angeles Times covered Sanders’ California campaign swing:

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont called on Americans to “stand up to hatred of all kinds” on Saturday as he paid a visit to a Koreatown mosque to commemorate the victims of the mass shooting in New Zealand.

“Your background is different than mine,” the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination told about 200 Muslims at the Islamic Center of Southern California. “What a joy it is to share that.”

The senator echoed that theme later in the day, telling an estimated 12,000 people at a downtown Los Angeles rally he was “shocked and disgusted” by the New Zealand shootings.

“As president of the United States, I will not have kind words to say about authoritarian leaders around the world who espouse bigotry and hatred,” Sanders told the crowd. “Together we will make the United States the leader in the world in the fight for democracy and human rights.”

Google Trends in Texas

In Texas, Harris’ events and coverage increased relative interest in her candidacy as well. Nationally, O’Rourke had 6x her interest in the last 24 hours — but Harris’ trip cut that ratio to 3x on Beto’s home turf.

The Texas Tribune covered Harris’ Texas swing:

By the time U.S. Sen Kamala Harris, D-California, took the stage here Saturday, the message was clear.

“This is Harris County!” declared a bevy of colorful signs in the hands of supporters in a crowded auditorium at Texas Southern University. And when Harris began to speak during the biggest event of her first major swing through Texas, Harris was implicitly communicating much the same message: There may be two Texas Democrats vying for support in this state nearly a year ahead of Super Tuesday, but the Californian isn’t ceding any ground to the state’s native sons.

We shouldn’t be surprised that candidates are doing high profile visits to states other than Iowa and New Hampshire already because the Democratic Primary schedule will be a little different from years past.

While Iowa is still first, followed by New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, in early March, Super Tuesday will be even more “super” because it will also include California in addition to Texas and a substantial list of other states.

In addition to being the largest states in the primary schedule, California is also home to Harris. Texas is home to O’Rourke and Fmr. HUD Secretary Julian Castro.

More of the Same: Growers, Sustainers and Showers

This week we also saw more of all the same trends on the week-by-week analysis of Democratic candidates’ efforts to drive interest:

  • Growers: Buttigieg and Yang continue to increase their share of attention.
  • Sustainers: Sanders, Harris, Warren, Booker and Gabbard are able to sustain or re-engage higher levels of interest post-announcements.
  • Showers: O’Rourke, Klobuchar, Gillibrand and Castro haven’t found a way to break through beyond their announcements.
  • Other Candidates: Inslee and Hickenlooper haven’t broken through at all yet.
Normalized Weekly Google Trends Data

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.



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