Searching the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll

Thursday, August 11, 2011 | 3:26 PM

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In just two days, Iowa voters will cast the first votes in the 2012 campaign at their traditional straw poll. The Iowa Straw Poll – so named because the results are non-binding and thus “as sturdy as straw” - is the first major event of the campaign. The nation’s political focus turns to Iowa starting tonight as eight of the announced candidates take the stage for the Fox News Ames Debate.

Iowans are rightfully proud of the role they play in presidential politics and take their responsibility seriously. They research the candidates. They investigate the issues. They’re engaged in the political process. That’s why the state makes for an interesting window to view the candidacies and issues through Google’s own data. As the country looks to Iowa, we thought it would be useful to examine what people in that state and across the country are searching for related to the 2012 Republican nomination.

Here’s what we found:

  • Michele Bachmann is the most searched announced candidate in Iowa right now, and nationally by a large margin.
  • Add in the names Sarah Palin and Rick Perry, and Bachmann still has the edge in Iowa.
  • But nationally, Perry becomes the current leader of search. 
  • The most searched for issue in Iowa and across the country is jobs - by large margin.
  • And finally, the State of Iowa leads by a HUGE margin the number of searches for [butter cow]
Heading into the weekend, [Michelle Bachmann] is the most searched-for announced candidate in Iowa. She’s taken off and now far surpasses any other declared candidate, especially those that are attending the Straw Poll. If you look at the pack together, Congressman [Ron Paul] trails Bachmann in the number two spot, as do searches for Governor [Tim Pawlenty], Senator [Rick Santorum] and businessman [Herman Cain].

Nationally, the same trend stands up, even when those candidates who are skipping the Straw Poll are added to the mix. Across the country, more people are searching for [Michelle Bachmann] that are searching for Congressman [Ron Paul], Governor [Mitt Romney], Speaker [Newt Gingrich] and Ambassador [Jon Huntsman].

However, the search landscape changes dramatically when we include two much-discussed potential candidates: [Rick Perry] and [Sarah Palin]. In Iowa, where she has focused her campaign, [Michelle Bachmann] retains her search lead, but across the country she drops to the number two spot behind the currently surging [Rick Perry]. Without even entering the race, Governor Perry finds himself leading in search today. Perry has some strong search momentum as more voters across the country turn to Google to find out more information about his potential candidacy.

So that covers the candidates, what about the issues? In Iowa, the candidates are talking about health care reform, the national debt and ethanol among others. But, the top concern - and most searched issue in Iowa and across the country - this year is [jobs] - by a HUGE margin.

Republican Party officials are expecting more than 10,000 voters to cast their vote on Saturday in Ames. But, that’s not the only big event taking place over the weekend. Celebrating more than 150 years, the Iowa State Fair includes highlights such as the the “fry everything” food booths to the famous butter cow. Don’t know what a butter cow is? It is a life-size bovine crafted entirely of butter and it is a huge part of the tradition at the Iowa State Fair. Iowa leads the country - by a huge margin - in the number of searches for [butter cow].

Here at Google, we are serious about our role in helping voters find information that is useful in the political process, and that’s why we’re heading to Ames to participate in the Straw Poll with our Soapbox. We’ll also be here from now until the General Election to help bring you a front-row seat to the race through a regular look at what’s happening online.

Posted by Ginny Hunt, Google Politics


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