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The Presidential debate: Expanding the town hall

News from Google

As we promised, here's an update on the search patterns we observed during last night's presidential debate. While a few lucky citizens were able to ask the candidates questions directly, millions of others used Google to find their answers.Similar to last Thursday, people sought to understand the meaning of several words mentioned in the debate: morass, commodity, junket, cynicism, and cronyism to name a few. In the chart below you can see four of the most popular queries during the debate. People were quite interested in both Meg Whitman and Warren Buffett, who were mentioned as potential candidates for the Secretary of Treasury, but the biggest rising query was Senator McCain's paraphrasing of Theodore Roosevelt's motto. Both candidates spoke against genocide while discussing the role of the United States as a peacekeeper, and as we saw in the vice presidential debate, nuclear energy and weapons were prominent topics.

Queries occurred as the candidates talked, but
the query volume dropped after 90-minute debate ended.

Here's an additional view on queries for each of the candidates, charting queries from swing states (which had no more than a 5% gap between votes for George Bush and John Kerry in the 2004 election) and non-swing states. Swing states generated proportionally more queries for the candidates than non-swing states. Both candidates peaked at the end of the debate, with McCain showing a larger spike while Obama has a larger overall volume.

Queries for the presidential candidates form a higher fraction of all queries in swing states.
We also were curious how queries for Senator Biden and Governor Palin during their debate compared to queries for Senators McCain and Obama last night. As you see here, searches on the candidates during the VP debate came out on top:

Queries containing "Biden" and "Palin" had higher peaks during last week's debate
than did "McCain" and "Obama" queries last night.

Using Google Hot Trends you can see some of the more interesting things people were researching during this debate. Visit Google Election Trends to learn about longer-term election-related Google search queries, and read our previous post for the earlier VP debate queries.

Jeffrey D. Oldham, Software Engineer, and Fred Leach, Customer Labs Analyst

published @ October 8, 2008

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