Biden vs. Biden. Google Trends

The election is in a month, give or take. America and the world are concerned about the outcome. Who will win the US election? The man in office, or Joe Biden? Polls are done by the dozen. Here is a “summary” of polls dated last Sunday 9/27:

Fig. 1: Biden-Trump voting intentions in National Polls. 9/27. Source: Financial Times.

The blue line in Fig. 1 plots voting intentions for Biden across time, 7 points above Trump (Red line). Careful, depending on the sample size, the margin of error can be around +/- 3.099, so a 7 point difference can be barely enough. As an example, if the “real” percentage for Trump is 43.1% + 3.099 = 46.2%, and “real” percentage for Biden is 50.3% – 3.099 = 47.2%, then the two candidates are somewhat close. A ten-point difference would be “safer”.

Bear with me. I won’t put formulas in the rest of this post. I will write as clear and simple as possible. The graphs are clear and easy to read, hang with me.

Now the complexity of US elections is beyond reason: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, and lost on the electoral college. Let’s see what the Financial Times (a “somewhat” reliable source in my humble opinion) has to say. See fig. 2:

Fig. 2 Projected electoral college. 9/27, source: Financial Times

Apparently, things look good for Biden: 255 projected electors, 15 short of the required majority of 270. However those 255 include “leaning” states, and there still are ten “toss-up” states, including many conservative Southern states. If Republicans win all toss-up states, they gain a majority in the electoral college…

Many (on all sides) still doubt polls. Don’t. Having made an – honest – living in Market research for 30 years, I can personally vouch for pollsters. I know a few and trust them. However, there are two technical limitations to the accuracy of polls:

One, I already mentioned above, is the margin of error. When candidates are close to 50% each, the survey’s margin of error is highest. And the final result may be different from the poll figures.

Two: in many recent polls, a significant portion of voters for the “extremes”, e.g Le Pen in France or Trump in the US (okay, let’s plug in Bernie Sanders and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, so I’m not accused of being partial) tend to lie blatantly to the pollsters. They say: “I don’t know.” There can be as many as 15-20% of “I don’t know’s” in some polls. Enough to swing the balance on Election Day.

So, given the limitation of polls, let’s turn to another source: Google Trends. See fig. 3:

fig.3 Interest for Clinton and Trump, 2016. Source: Google trends.

Fig. 3 plots the “Interest” curves for Clinton and Trump during the 3 months before the 2016 election. While polls mostly gave Clinton the lead, “Interest” was always highest for Trump. Remember who won?

What is “Interest”? “Interest” is a fascinating concept! Google has been measuring for years, the volume of people who search/Google any word in any language in any country. For instance, how many people, day by day, have typed “Jojo rabbit” in Google, in the world or in the US? I suspect far more than “Marcel Proust”. Interest simply measures – and compares – the number of people who search information on Clinton or Trump. The number of people who type “Joe Biden” in Google. Simple and mind-blowing.

Interest is a very powerful tool. I have used it to measure the impact of marketing strategies, for brand names, brand image, etc. Cross-reference with advertising spending, on-line com, what have you, it works. Very high correlations. Now, in the case at hand, where do the two candidates in the 2020 election stand in terms of “Interest”? See fig. 4:

Fig. 4 Interest for Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden. 9/27. Source: Google trends

The volume of Google search for “Donald Trump” is 55%, way above the volume of search for Joe Biden, 43%. Many more people type “Donald Trump” in Google than they do “Joe Biden”. There is more “interest” for the former than for the latter. As in 2016, the red candidate generates more “interest” than the blue candidate. Anyone can access those results by typing “Google trends US elections” in Google. Quite different from the polls. What I don’t know, is how Google calculates 55 and 43%. Probably a sliding average. Let’s explore a bit more detail in fig. 5:

Fig. 5: Interest for Joe Biden and Donald trump, in the US, past 90 days.

Those curves have various points of interest. Trump (in red) led in interest in June-July, which probably explains his highest average of 55% Interest. Biden peaked on two occasions, one was the nomination of Kamala Harris on the ticket. Today, according to Google Trends, the two candidates are almost tied. Or seem tied. One key factor in using Google Trends (which I learned the hard way, working for corporate brands) is the word you type in. Interest results for “Coke” may be different from results for “Coca-Cola”. See fig. 6:

Fig. 6. Interest for “Joe Biden” and “Biden”, past 90 days.

More people search for “biden” (in red) than for “Joe Biden” (in blue). Logical. “Biden” is easier, quicker to type… Very little or no possible confusion with other names. I’ll spare you the “Trump” vs. “Donald Trump” graph. Same thing. “Trump” has a higher “Interest” (search volume) than Donald Trump. So let’s look at the Interest for “Biden” vs. “Trump”. Fig. 7:

Fig. 7. Interest for Biden vs. Trump, past 90 days, US.

Interest for Trump on September 26 (blue and red columns to the left) was 55, compared to 18 for Biden. If you go back to Fig. 3, Interest for Clinton vs. Trump, we have a similar situation as in 2016. Things don’t “look good” for the Democrats.

Conclusion: Google Trends does insist that “Search data is an indication of curiosity in the subject or candidate. It should not be considered an indication of voter intent.” (You can learn more by clicking on the link).

For example, one might Google “Trump”, despising the man. Of a Trump voter might Google Biden, looking for “dirt”. The New York Times spectacular release of Trump’s tax records might cause a surge in “interest” for Trump.

However the 2016 election precedent should cause concern in the Democrat camp. Hillary Clinton lost despite polls, because maybe her team didn’t know about Google Trends and/or did not take advantage of new, on-line forms of communication, while the other candidate tweeted his heart out every day. Obama won, amongst other things, thanks to innovative campaigning at the time: call centers, use of cell phones, texting, etc. The coming election in November can still be won by the Democrats investing heavily in on-line presence. Now! And, of course, if every Democrat goes to vote.

Thank you for reading this far, my blogger friends. I’ve been monitoring Google Trends for months now (biting my nails), wondering whether I should post this unusual text. I tried to make it as simple as possible. Don’t despair. There is still time.

You can do two things: one, go vote. That is a must. Two, share this. As much as you can. The key to winning this election is on-line presence and sharing. Plus, maybe someone knows someone who knows someone who knows… etc. Biden’s campaign manager. So they can take action. On-line action. There still is a full month.

My very best wishes for this coming election. (I look forward to the debate tonight)

80 thoughts on “Biden vs. Biden. Google Trends

  1. Very interesting, last night I was wondering how old the main candidates were. One is saying the other is very old, so I thought I’d look it up. There is only a four year difference. I speculated that I should make sure to search both so I wouldn’t unduly influence search results counts. Thanks for confirming that. : ) R

  2. It’s going to be very interesting to see what voters gonna decide next month, especially knowing that the president payed less in income taxes then everyday Americans! Cheers Brian and take care. I hope all is well. Dublin is back in lockdown and so are a few other counties, imagine 🙈 Aiva

    • The problem is his followers are more of a cult than real voters… Fingers crossed. Sorry for the re-lockdown… We have to stay put until a cure os found. My son-in-law told me over the week-end, there were close to 200 vaccines/treatments underway… We’ll see.
      Stay safe Aiva.

      • Countries are more resilient than one thinks. France survived 4 years of occupation – and collaboration. Germany revived after 1945. Took them a long time to absorb what they had done, but Germany is now a model country. (With a few nuts going around as anywhere). Problem is that a few politicians can destroy a country in a few years. It takes generations to revive… Fingers crossed. 🤞

  3. As a fellow analyst this is so fascinating to me. I read and took in every word. It will be so interesting to see what happens. Thanks for your thoughts here.

    I have not tried myself but I understand from some friends who have signed up to support one candidate or the other that Trump’s response via phone and email and texts both sending out information and asking for monetary support is far greater than Biden. I find that interesting as well and perhaps telling. Although truth be told I imagine Biden’s team will have ramped up by now and has perhaps got it together and improved in that department.

    • I thought you might enjoy the analysis. And who knows, maybe Google trends could even be adapted to your line of work? At least for global or state trends?
      I wouldn’t be surprised about Trump’s response. Google Trends doesn’t “tell” the numbers of volume search. You may have seen the scale is at 100? They do a weird “reduced” variable, dividing the volume by the highest volume of the period and multiply by 100. (Not your classical reduced centered variable). But if you want a big surprise, Google “trump”, then “biden” and look at the number of results shown top left…

  4. Excellent summary. While I’d like you to say that the dems have nothing to worry about, I probably wouldn’t believe it. We can’t afford to take anything for granted at this point. Still, I’m going to assuage my anxiety by telling myself that the increased “interest” numbers for Trump have to do with fact checking the daily onslaught of Trump lies.

    • That’s why I posted: the Dems do have to worry. And keep working and convincing. The “interest” numbers can do with both sides, but in my marketing experience it leans more on the “favourable” side. Plus the precedent of the Clinton-Interest in 2016.

  5. All this just proves that human kind is not yet – if ever – ready for the next evolutionary step.
    The whole world has been brought to its knees by a bunch of international terrorists following a century-old agenda and people are still worried about which monkey will sit on a certain chair ready to acquiesce to that agenda.

  6. Not my circus, but – whoever inhabits the Whitehouse tends to interfere in the world – and I for one don’t have confidence in many politicians, but I think tRump is perhaps the worst western democratic leader ever.

  7. I think the most important thing is if we can stop trump from hijacking the election and not being able to stop him, regardless of the votes. If he refuses to let them be counted, if he blocks them, which he is planning to do…then…all bets are off.

    • He clearly set ground yesterday refusing to say he would accept the results if “the election is fraudulent”. he also said he had “the support of 200 generals” if I heard well. What ‘s that? Premisses of a coup?

  8. Et Trump n’est pas seul. Ils sont tout un club. Même par ici, même si en plus poli, le piétinement de l’humanité est en cours … et ils s’en trouvent pour s’en réjouir.
    Merci, Brieuc, et prends bien soin de toi. Le très local prend soudain de l’importance !

    • Ça piétine dur. Ça doit être ça l’immunité du bétail. 😉
      Quand à l’autre, il a choppé la… (J’allais dire cht…le, mais ça pourrait être mal interprété) 😉
      J’espère que maintenant il va comprendre, mais le précédent de ses potes Johnson et Bolsonaro, c’est peu probable. Espoérons simplement que sa campagne va prendre du plob dans le l’aile. Je ne sais pas si l’Amérique – et le monde – peuvent supporter 4 ans de plus de cet imbécile… J’ai vu le débat. Comme disent mes amis Américains: “a disgrace”.
      Tout va bien chez toi? Ça repart sec en France… 🙏🏻😷

      • “On” blâme le non-port du masque. Mais c’est comme pour les contraventions routières. Il est beaucoup plus facile, et indolore, de taxer les chauffeurs ou les chauffeuses qui n’ont pas réglé leur ticket de parking que les chauffeurs ou les chauffeuses qui remontent le sens interdit … juste en face de mes fenêtres. Alors que remonter un sens interdit est beaucoup plus dangereux … surtout celui-là. “On” s’en prend à des quidams tête-en-l’air qui ont oublié leur masque mais sont à des décamètres de leurs voisins et “on” laisse s’agglutiner des travailleurs, des sportifs, des fêtards, des chasseurs … “parce que vous comprenez, l’économie, les élections …”
        Tout va bien par ici, sort of ! Prends bien soin de toi, tout là-bas.

      • Le règne de la facilité… Une blogueuse m’a envoyé une vidéo d’une fête sur les quais d’Rhône à Lyon. Du délire…
        Et les sens interdit est pris à toute brezingue, sûrement, pour en sortir plus vite… tsss.
        A + Gilles.

  9. Interesting post and sobering analysis.
    Sometimes I reflect on the fact that Americans cannot trust a man like Trump, then I realize that also in Italy we have too many people who seem to be “asymptomatic carriers of intelligence”

  10. What a very intriguing look behind the curtain into the effects of marketing strategy, social media influence, and the intricacies of various polling methods…and also at the power of technology in politics. The ability to use and manipulate new tech has been an important part of the political machine, from the Kennedy/Nixon television debates onwards. I feel like there’s so much more you could have written about these aspects of campaigning because of your knowledge…but stopped yourself. 😁 An impending blog series to come perhaps?

    • Thanks for your comment. How have you been? All well?
      “Stopped myself”? Yes and no, I did try to make it short, because most readers are not familiar with these concepts and might be rebuked by numbers and graphs. So short it was, on purpose to make it readable.
      (I spared you guys regression analysis between interest and advertising spending or website traffic or incoming calls to call centres. (I don’t have the relevant data in this case to run the analysis). All I can say is that the R2 is very high, and you can finetune across the board Marketing strategies.
      Not a series, but I will probably do an update around mid-October, and before Election day. Not sure yet. This whole affair is quite depressing. 4 more years?! Jesus!

      • I think this strange world does affect more the younger people. Those who work, have to move around. Being retired, all I miss is my morning walk and cappuccino on the plaza. And air travel of course… But I’m sure that will come back.

  11. The whole political US system is corrupted and now also pre-fascist. And a lot of incidents are now alike those in Germany of the early 1930s. IT WOULD NOW NEED REALLY A REVOLUTION for a principal change of such rotten and abysnal politics.

    • I agree with you Ulli, on the similarity with the Weimar Republic… Hitler was democratically elected, despite his past record. I beg to differ on the revolution. All examples in history, including some I’ve witnessed did not end well…
      How are things in Berlin? France seems to go back to curfew… 🙏🏻😷

      • We had a peaceful revolution here in Germany at the end of 1989 which led finally to the abolition of the bloody wall here in Berlin. Something like this would be great, a dream, I know, a civil war more probable actually in the USA. Tough times indeed, politicians in Berlin now more and more crazy, new stupid restrictions because of COVID19 although only 0,1 % of the citizens here in Charlottenburg are now infected, but all Berlin declared as a risk zone, we can’t visit anymore certain areas in Germany because they say we are a risk now Are we living in medieval times again? It seems so, demogracy and freedom in danger now because of a tiny little devil. I am missing a fact-based debate in the most important institution, the parliament (Berlin, Bruxelles, Paris, etc.). Now single people like Macron in Paris decide alone on such matters. I had to postpone my marriage planned for 26 October, all was prepared, but each single day new partially idiotic COVID19 rules which nobody understands anymore. I am pissed off really now by politics. But life must continue!

      • Congratulations on your marriage. I’m sure you will be able to reschedule it. 🙏🏻
        Politics? Aren’t we all…
        yes, life must continue.

      • Oh yes, interesting people here in Berlin, but for creative persons like him now really very difficult to survive what is also the case for my nephew in spe, the rapper FATONI

        I hope this stupid pandemic can now be beaten after Christmas or during early 2021. Stay healthy in the time being!

      • Your nephew is a talented young man. German “works” well in Rap… Not all languages do.
        Yes, people in the performance industry are suffering… Es ist die ‘Nein, nein, nein’ Jahr. Definitely…
        Stay safe too. 🙏🏻

      • LOL. 🤣 No. Maybe a distant cousin. (Should I sue him for the use of the brand name?) 😉
        Shouldn’t you be sleeping? it’s 3AM in Berlin if I’m not mistaken? Gutte nacht Ulli. 🌒 😴

      • 1:45 a.m. as far as I remember, we still have summer time for a couple of days. Not really late in a metropolitan area, but right now most is closed at night like in a distant village.

  12. By the way, for what it’s worth there is a fresh documentary mini-series that kinda explains how voting works in the US: Whose vote counts, explained (2020).

    Not that people’s votes really matter, as Mark Twain famously said. This whole thing of governing – or rather exploiting – an entire planet is so huge that most people could never wrap their heads around it. That’s why they have been able to subdue us all with this so carefully concocted scenario of the plandemic.

    We all are expendable. Yes, even the presidents – when they try to go against the Agenda.

      • Well, he was wrong about that – they made artificial islands in Dubai and who-knows-where else… But the voting thing still stands. Find and watch that documentary, it might be right up your alley. 😉

      • Considering the Cabal has been able to bring the entire planet to its knees in no time, I think it’s obvious there is no safe corner whatsoever anywhere on Earth. Physical distance doesn’t matter as long as they have their tools in each and every government. And a lot of missiles strategically placed in lots of countries. We are all doomed.

  13. Interesting! Today, Biden’s projected lead over Trump according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight aggregate of polls, is 10.3 points. While I am encouraged by that, and by the fact that some 28 million people have already voted either by mail-in ballot or in-person early voting, I urge caution. More democrats than republicans use mail-in voting, and there could potentially be a wave of Trump voters at the polls on November 3rd. Plus, Hillary was projected to win over Trump all the way up until the numbers started coming in on the night of November 8th 2016, so while the polls are helpful, they should not be taken to the bank! Great post, Brian … thank you!

      • It is definitely the most crucial and dangerous election in my 69 years, and possibly in the history of the nation. My fingers have been crossed for so long that I think they are fused and will require surgical separation if the day ever comes that I can breathe easily and want to uncross them.

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