Searching the Fox News/Google Debate

Friday, September 23, 2011 | 9:57 AM

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Last night the nine leading Republican Presidential candidates spent two hours answering your questions in the Fox News / Google debate. Throughout the debate we polled viewers online and featured their responses live on national television. Today, we’ll drill deeper into viewers’ reactions by analyzing Google search trends throughout the debate.

Gary Johnson Arrives on the Stage 
This debate was marked by a rare appearance on stage from former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, and the search trends show that viewers wanted to learn more about the newcomer. Gov. Johnson's introduction at 9:01 PM, and his four responses throughout the debate, all sent searches for his name through the roof. Searches for the low-polling “Gary Johnson” spiked well above those for presumed frontrunners Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, as well as all other candidates, as this graph shows.

However, Johnson’s most buzzworthy answer - a quip about President Obama’s inability to create jobs at 10:49PM - actually garnered the fewest searches of the night for the New Mexico Governor, a sign that by the end of the debate the audience knew him better. That said, one term did spike particularly high at that time: ‘Johnson’s neighbor’s dogs.’

"9-9-9? Is that like the Domino’s 5-5-5 deal?"
Godfather’s Pizza mogul Herman Cain repeatedly promoted his "9-9-9 Plan” for tax reform, and search trends show that Cain’s repetition prompted viewers to learn more. Every time Cain mentioned the plan - at 9:15, 10:39, and then Huntsman referred to it at 10:54 - there was a major spike in Google searches.

Read my book! No, read my book!
Gov. Rick Perry and former Gov. Mitt Romney sparred throughout the debate over the contents of their respective books. Our records show that many more viewers were interested in Romney's No Apology than Perry's Fed Up.

What would you cut?
About half way through the debate Megyn Kelly asked YouTube user Lee Doren’s question about government cuts: If you had to cut one department of the Federal government, what would you cut?

While Herman Cain said he would eliminate the EPA on TV, online viewers answered the same question on the channel, and they overwhelmingly favored eliminating the Department of Education.

Interestingly this data contradicts search data from the past twelve months: more Google users search for the Department of Education than any of the other departments listed.

The Fox News/Google Debate isn't over, though. Head over to now to watch individual clips of each question-and-answer exchange and vote on how you think each candidate fared under the pressure of your questions. Watch out for more trends and data from the debate coming soon, and stay tuned for our next scheduled debate with PBS on January 12th in Des Moines, Iowa.

Posted by Eric Hysen, Google Politics & Elections Team, and Will Houghteling, YouTube News & Politics Team.


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