All the Rage
Who's stirring up the candidates more: MoveOn or Limbaugh?
Updated Friday, Oct. 5, 2007, at 3:58 PM
Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007
The Google primary: What do people think about when they think about the 2008 presidential candidates? To find out, I spent a few hours with Google. Back in August, Slate's Josh Levin revealed the glories of Google Suggest, which lets you see instantly which search queries are the most popular: Paul Potts is searched for more often than Paul McCartney, and more people want to know about "tom cruise height" than "tom cruise and katie holmes."
Google Suggest reveals that most people are looking for the obvious candidate-related material: Wikipedia pages, campaign sites, biographies. But it's the anomalies that provide a glimpse into our collective thinking. A few distinct patterns emerge:
Wives matter: People want to get to know Elizabeth Kucinich. When you type "dennis kucinich" into Google Suggest, you learn that more people are searching for "dennis kucinich wife" than "dennis kucinich for president." What do they want to know about her? According to the suggestion results for her name, people are looking for "pictures," "photos," "age," "hot," and "tongue." (It's pierced.) The Republican field has a woman of choice, too: Three of the top 10 search queries after "fred thompson" are wife-related. The query "joe biden wife," however, doesn't appear until the candidate's 10th result. Ouch.
Dirty minds: Among Hillary Clinton's most popular searches is "hillary clinton cleavage"—no doubt fueled by all the hard-hitting reporting on the subject. Of course, that's innocent compared with Rudy's most popular associations: Search for "Rudy Giuliani" and three of the top 10 suggested queries are related to cross-dressing. Other results provide a glimpse into America's fantasies: If you type in "obama", three of the top 10 results are some variation on "obama girl." And why else would "mitt romney larry craig" be such a popular search?
God is great: Everyone knows Mitt Romney's religion: As expected, people are searching for "mitt romney mormon." But they're also curious—and mistaken, it seems—about Obama's beliefs. Type his name, and you see that "barack obama muslim" and "barack obama religion" are the second and fourth most-popular queries, respectively. Enter "barack hussein" into the search field and up pops "barack hussein obama a muslim wants to be our president."
Soft spots: Some search suggestions point out a candidate's weaknesses. "John McCain age" is up there, as is "john edwards house" and "john edwards suv." Joe Biden's search slate is pretty clean, save for the seventh suggestion, "joe biden plagiarism." It's a sad commentary on Chris Dodd's campaign that one of the most common Dodd queries is "chris dodd fly," which takes you to a video of the senator debating with a bug on his head.
Name game: A handful of candidates are the most popular people to bear their first names. Fred Thompson is the most popular Fred on the Web, beating out Freddies Mercury and Mac. Dennis Kucinich bests Miller, Rodman, and Hopper. Mike Huckabee thumps Mike Gravel handily (but Vick and Tyson top them both). Clinton is the most popular Hillary on the Internet, beating out Duff and Swank. And Mitt Romney, thankfully, is more popular than mittelschmerz.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his series on the presidency and his series on risk. Follow him on Twitter.
Brad Flora is founder and CEO of WindyCitizen.com.
Photographs of: Rudolph Giuliani in drag by Joe DeMaria/AP Photos.