How Voters are Using Search Engines in the 2008 Election Cycle

Vikki Porter passed along an article today from Rob Garner at Media Post’s Search Insider which details the results of the company’s recent research into political search trends in the ’08 elections. Below are some high points; check out the full piece for more.

  • The Internet has outpaced newspapers as the second most influential channel for election news coverage, after television.
  • Voters are most concerned about the issues (i.e., they’re more often searching for information about issues rather than directly for information about a given candidate)
  • Economy and health care issues have increased in search prominence, while global warming is not as hot
  • Obama leads in visibility on issue-related searches in the natural search results, and all candidates could improve in paid results
  • Obama is also by far the most popular candidate in terms of search queries, though John McCain leads in paid search with 60% of the total visibility. McCain was much more aggressive about advertising on particular issues instead of just generic election-related search terms.

As for the particular issues, here are the top ten, along with the percentage of searchers hitting each:

  1. Health care – 49%
  2. Economy – 49%
  3. War in Iraq – 48%
  4. Gas prices – 44%
  5. Immigration – 37%
  6. Social security – 37%
  7. Jobs – 35%
  8. Education – 35%
  9. War on terror – 30%
  10. Environment – 30%

These results are obviously useful for the campaigns themselves, but they can also help issue advocacy groups that are trying to piggyback off of the high level of political interest this year. They’re also an interesting angle for looking into voters’ minds — ripe for comparison with polls (i.e., how does aggregate online behavior match up to people’s self-reported interests?)


Written by
Colin Delany
View all articles
1 comment