The Google Primary, Part 4: Interest in Early Frontrunners Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders Is Correlated to State-by-State Diversity

This is the 4th post in a series of analyses of Google Trends data from the early part of the 2020 Democratic primary campaign. Find previous pieces here: Part 1 Part 2 and Part 3.

Looking at Google Trends from the last month alongside U.S. Census estimates on percentage of white, non-hispanic population shows a correlation between diversity of a state and the relative interest in the two early frontrunners for the Democratic nomination: Senators Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders.

The chart below shows this correlation and is sorted to show states where interest in Harris is relatively higher at the top with interest in Sanders relatively higher at the bottom.

Interest in Senator Kamala Harris is relatively higher in more diverse states like her home state of California; more diverse swing states like Arizona, North Carolina and Florida; and more diverse early states like South Carolina and Nevada. Also, there are a few exceptions to the trend in states like Iowa and Kansas where Harris is also driving relatively strong interest.

On the other hand, interest in Senator Bernie Sanders is relatively higher in less diverse states like his home state of Vermont; midwestern battlegrounds like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, and Michigan; and the crucial early state of New Hampshire. There are also exceptions to the trend here with Sanders having relatively stronger interest in New Mexico.

It will be interesting to see how this interest-based data matches — or not — with the campaign’s strategies and messages as the Democratic primary progresses.

Already we have seen Senator Sanders’ campaign push the message that his strength in some less diverse states could allow him to re-draw the 2020 general election map with a focus on independent voters and rural communities.

This is how POLITICO covered this story:

[T]he Sanders team is convinced the Vermont senator’s appeal to independent voters, the white working class and people of color is underestimated — and could pay dividends in unexpected places in a general election. They argue that his anti-establishment and populist economic message, as well as his many years of representing rural voters, makes him competitive in not only the Rust Belt states where Hillary Clinton faltered but also potentially in deep-red states, too.

They’re not just talking about West Virginia. Some in the Sanders camp envision possibly making a play for Iowa, Ohio, and Indiana, as well as states such as Kansas, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Montana — six states that, together, have voted for the Democratic nominee just twice in the past half-century.

It’s notable that Sanders’ team highlighted several states where interest in him is strong in this search data, especially, North Dakota, Indiana and Montana.

The Caveats

Comparing the aggregate interest across 30 days for these candidates is not a great measure of absolute strength because Harris has been running for about a month while Sanders just announced a few days ago. This makes sense because over the course of 30 days, Harris has had more time to drive overall interest. As an example, looking at a smaller 7-day subset of this Google Trends data shows Sanders ahead across nearly every state. That is why this article does not focus on who has more support overall and instead focusing on changes in relative strength for these candidates across states.

Additionally, this analysis is only a snapshot in time and looking at these two candidates alone. Things can change quickly!

Google Trends Interest in Kamala Harris by Region, 1/22–2/22
Google Trends Interest in Bernie Sanders by Region, 1/22–2/22

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

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