Google Thinks Romney Can't Win

Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 27 2011 4:17 PM

Is Google Saying Something about Mitt Romney?

 Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Photograph by Darren McCollester/Getty Images.

Google turns out a curiously partisan result when users type "Romney can win" into the site's search bar. The search engine provides an ordinary-looking set of (more than 50 million) results—but also, at the top of the page, includes a suggestion:

"Did you mean: 'Romney can't win?''


Romney has maintained a tenuous position at or near the top of the Republican field for months, but he has struggled to gain broad support among the party's base. (Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, is ahead of him in the latest CBS News poll.)

Is Romney's lackluster support the reason behind Google's not-so-subtle suggestion? It's tough to tell without unpacking the complicated algorithms the site uses to rank search results. But so far, Romney is the only presidential candidate for whom the Google glitch applies. (And yes, we even checked Huntsman.)

It's not the first time Google search results have provided Internet users with a taste of conventional political wisdom. From 2003 until 2007, users who typed in the term "miserable failure" into the Google search bar were greeted by the official White House biography of George W. Bush. That result—like other so-called "Google bombs"—was the handiwork of users who gamed the site's search rankings by setting up large numbers of outside links to a certain page.

In this case, however, it appears that Google's less-than-charitable correction concerning Mitt Romney's chances for victory is only incidentally partisan, and not a clever trick by political pranksters. Not human ones, anyway.


Peter Fulham is Slate intern.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Honcho Says Celebs Who Keep Nude Photos in the Cloud Are “Stupid”
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Oct. 2 2014 9:19 AM Alibaba’s Founder on Why His Company Is Killing It in China
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 2 2014 10:42 AM The Hanging Coffins of Sagada
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 10:36 AM How Bad Will Adam Sandler’s Netflix Movies Be?
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?