How Americans Are Searching For Election 2008 Information

Last week, our research department released the findings of a study entitled, "How America Searches: Election 2008 Update," which was a follow-up to our first report released last July by the same name. While these findings would have shed further light on the Democratic results of yesterday's Pennsylvania primaries, my column deadline precludes me from commenting on the outcome. But the report provides valuable insight on the way voters are turning to search for election coverage -- nsight that the candidate's online campaign strategists should take notice of, especially as we head closer toward the national conventions, and elections in November.

Among the key findings:

The Internet has outpaced newspapers as the second most influential channel for election news coverage, after television. The number of potential voters turning to the Internet for information has increased by 31% since our first election report in July of 2007, leading newspapers at 55% to 47% as the second most popular channel.

Voters are most concerned about the issues
. 87% of potential voters search about election issues, and searches for a candidate's position on the issues is one of the main drivers of this type of search.

Economy and health care issues have increased in search prominence, while global warming is not as hot
. While the Iraq war and gas prices are still very popular topics for searchers, the economy and health care have catapulted as top issues of search interest online.

Candidate search volumes have increased since last July.
Though searches and polling outcomes are not always in sync,Obama is the most popularly searched-for candidate by a wide margin, both nationally, and in Pennsylvania.



Obama leads in visibility on issue-related searches in the natural search results, and all candidates could improve in paid results. Obama has a 60% visibility share in the natural results for the surveyed keyword list, followed by Ron Paul's 36% share, Hillary Clinton's 3% share, and John McCain's 1% share.

The report also reveals interesting breakouts by gender, depending on the particular topical search interest at hand. Women had more search interest for health care, education, and the environment, while men were generally more interested in search about the economy, the war in Iraq, jobs, and the war on terror.

The Top Ten issues

As mentioned above, 87% of voters searched about a particular issue. The following list features the top 10 issues that were searched for, and the percentage of respondents who searched for them:

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%

Search interest in the candidates

In a recent column, I analyzed Democratic candidate search trends in Google Trends leading up to the Texas and Ohio primaries back in March, and found that Obama was a clear leader in terms of overall search interest. The findings of this survey show he has gained even more momentum, leading across all searcher's party affiliations with 71% of overall search interest, followed by Hillary Clinton (62%), John McCain (46%), Ron Paul (17%), and Ralph Nader (8%). But as I also noted in that column, search interest did not necessarily equal a win in the primary.

Paid and natural search winners and losers

In terms of paid search strategy, McCain dominated Clinton and Obama, turning up with a 60 % share of visibility for the targeted keyword set, against Obama's 25 %, and Clinton's 15 % share. McCain and Obama appeared to be the only ones in the game for "generic" issues-based searches, while the other focused on candidate specific terms and phrases ("brand terms", if you will). Between the two candidates buying issues-based terms, McCain held strong at 70% share versus Obama's 30% share of visibility. McCain's campaign included terms and phrases like "border security", "campaign finance", "greenhouse gases", and "universal healthcare," while Obama's generic issue list included the terms "democratic nomination" and "democratic party."

For natural search visibility, Obama dominated the targeted keyword set with 60% visibility, followed by Ron Paul at 36%. Clinton and McCain were blips on the natural search landscape, with only 3% and 1 % visibility, respectively. Overall, it was media- and news-related sites that dominated this landscape, which included the Washington Post, MSNBC and CNN.

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