Goodbye Public Sector Blog, Hello Politics & Elections Blog

Monday, October 10, 2011 | 9:52 AM

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We launched the Google Public Sector & Elections Blog back in June of 2009 with the intention of providing you with the latest digital learnings, insights, tools, case studies and tips from the public sector, open government and elections industries. Over the past two years, we’ve shared our research, examples, product news, trends and much more on a wide variety of governmental and political topics.

With the 2012 US election cycle kicking into high gear, the frequency of high profile elections across the globe and as more Googlers across the globe working to build tools to connect voters to the electoral process, we figured it was time to give our elections and politics project a proper blog home and an opportunity to expand in terms of coverage. That’s why we’re excited to provide even more focus on politics and elections — from across the globe — on our new Google Politics & Elections Blog.

This new Google Politics & Elections Blog will continue to be operated by our Politics & Elections team and our aim is to deliver more trends, news and tools for voters, campaigns, developers and journalists.

Go check it out now!

Posted by: Jake Parrillo, Google Politics & Elections Team

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.

Taking a peek at political trends ahead of our Florida debate

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | 2:51 PM

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With our Fox News GOP Presidential debate less than 48 hours away, we thought it would be useful to once again look at Google search trends to see which candidates users are searching for.

We last looked at search trends and the GOP presidential race in early August just ahead of the Iowa Straw Poll. From former candidates (Tim Pawlenty) to new candidates (Texas Governor Rick Perry), the dynamics of this race have changed dramatically in the past 4 weeks. This time around, we found:

1. Since joining the field in August, Rick Perry has jumped out to be the most searched front-running candidate nationally.
2. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is still very much in the search race - contrary to media reports, our data shows this may not a two-person contest between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney!
3. Past debates generated interest among Google users on hot-button issues like HPV and Social Security.
4. Which state searches most for Ron Paul? Montana. (I didn’t predict that either!).
5.  Search queries mirrored the results in the NY-9 Special Election recently.

Rick Perry takes the lead
[Rick Perry] has taken the lead in searches on Google. As more and more Americans hear, read, and talk about him, they’re looking to the web to discover more about the issues, his positions, and his background. Since joining the race, he’s held the lead among the front-running candidates in terms of overall search numbers.

Bachmann hanging tough
Back in early August, we learned that Michele Bachmann was the most searched candidate both in Iowa and across the country. Heading into the Iowa Straw Poll, we showed her with a commanding lead in search volume and when all the votes were tallied, she won. A peek at our search trends shows that, despite some recent claims, the GOP race is not a two-person race. Rather, it might still be a three-person race. Although Bachmann has dropped behind searches for [Rick Perry] across the country, she is still more searched than [Mitt Romney].

Debates Drives Interest in Issues
Tomorrow at our debate with Fox News, we’ll be looking to user-submitted questions and search data to help frame the debate and prompts given to the candidates. The issues that Americans care most about will take center stage. In a blog post yesterday, we showed that the top-ranking categories are Government Spending & Debt and Jobs & Economy. These issues will dominate the evening. However, if past debates are any measure, there could be a breakout issue that isn’t on anyone’s radar ahead of the program. Resulting from recent debates in Florida and New Hampshire, two hot-button issues emerged and voters turned to the web to discover more on the topics. With the perceived-frontrunner Governor Perry being pressed on his positions, his opponents shed light on his stances. As a result, in the days after the debates, searches for [Social Security Ponzi Scheme] and searches [HPV Rick Perry] and [HPV] vaccines - saw major increases as voters turned to the web to discover more and get to the truth of the matters.

Montana is Ron Paul country
Some of you may be wondering where Congressman Ron Paul is in all of this search activity. Having accurately predicted his second place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll - based on search trends - we’ve noticed that over the summer, the state with the highest interest in Ron Paul is Montana. Surprised me, too! Other top states include early states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and Florida, so perhaps this data bodes well for some key primaries.

NY-9 Results
Finally, we thought it would be useful to walk through some of the ways that our search data has served as a good proxy for offline behavior - and in this case - elections. We’ve already showed you above how search data in Iowa showed a Bachmann - Paul finish in the Iowa Straw Poll in August, but more recently we saw parallels in search data and election results in the special election for 9th Congressional District which pitted Republican [Bob Turner] against Democrat [David Weprin]. The search trends show Turner pulling away to a lead in the days leading up to election day. He went on to win.

Like most of you, all of us on the Google Politics and Elections team will continue to be keeping a close eye on the race and tomorrow night’s debate promises to be a great moment in the campaign. Stay tuned here for more search trends as the race heats up.

Posted by:  Jake Parrillo, Politics and Elections Project Communications Team

A global discussion on open government

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 | 10:14 AM


Open government is an important, timely topic -- rarely go through a day without interacting with public data or government services, whether it’s checking the weather or taking public transit. Today, we’re joining 46 governments from all corners of the world to launch the Open Government Partnership and establish openness as an essential pillar of 21st century governance.

You can watch a live stream of today’s sessions on Google’s YouTube channel.

As part of today’s conversation, we’ll be talking about three elements of openness. The first is the power of people. We fundamentally believe in the capacity of people to innovate and create change, and the people around the world leading open government efforts are shining examples of how reform can happen.

The second is the power of trust. In our global economy, trust is an invaluable currency -- consider it a killer app in the digital age. Trust is critical to the relationship between the institution and the individual. And the establishment of trust starts with transparency. The more open governments are with their citizens, entrepreneurs and partners -- the better opportunities they create, and the more successful societies they build.

The third is the power of open systems and technology. We fundamentally believe that open systems win, as our colleague Jonathan Rosenberg has talked about before. Open systems lead to more innovation, resources, and freedoms for citizens -- and a vibrant, competitive ecosystem to create jobs and grow our economies.

Open systems - which include a myriad of policies and practices along with open standards, open source technology and open information - have already shown the potential to spawn industries and bring increased creativity, better commerce and more effective decision-making across our respective sectors and communities. They establish meritocracies that harness the intellect of the people and spur sectors to compete, innovate, and win based on the real value of their ideas, products and services.

We believe that open systems are the way for us to have the broadest impact for the most people, in their power to deliver information, and in the power of information to do good -- to inspire enthusiastic innovators who will seize on opportunities and create inventions that will benefit people in ways we can’t yet fathom.

We applaud the efforts of all people, countries and organizations working on transparency -- and we hope today’s launch reaffirms the power of openness.

Posted by Ginny Hunt, Google's Public Sector Program Manager

Fox News/Google Debate: Digging into your questions

Monday, September 19, 2011 | 3:33 AM


(Cross-posted from the Official YouTube Blog

With three days to go before the Fox News/Google Debate, we’ve seen more than 16,000 questions from all 50 states submitted to the Fox News YouTube channel. During Thursday’s live event in Orlando, you’ll see a selection of these questions posed to the GOP candidates live on stage. As we count down to tomorrow’s midnight ET submission deadline, here’s a look at the questions you want answered by the candidates bidding for the 2012 Republican nomination.

The top issues on your minds? The Government Spending & Debt and Jobs & Economy categories rank highest in question volume—not surprising with unemployment above 9 percent and a summer spent debating the debt ceiling. Health care, which dominated political chatter for the first year of Obama’s presidency, now trails all other issues.

* NOTE: This chart excludes the “Other” category, which has received 26% of all questions, ranging from education to State’s rights.

You also want to hear from specific candidates in the GOP field. Ten percent of the total questions received referenced a specific candidate, and of those, newcomer Gov. Rick Perry leads the pack. Outweighing all of the GOP candidates in mentions? President Obama. Questioners referenced the current president over 1,000 times, nearly twice as many times as Gov. Perry, and ten times as much as the previous president, George W. Bush.

Interest in the race spans the country and the globe, with questions submitted from Indiana to Israel, South Dakota to South Korea. In the US, the cities leading question submissions are:

New York
San Diego

It’s not too late to submit your own question, or vote on the ones you like, at Then, on Thursday, watch the live debate unfold there at 9pm ET, and see how the candidates respond.

Posted by: Will Houghteling, YouTube News and Politics, recently watched “Flying over planet Earth.”

Choose the questions for the GOP candidates in the FOX News/Google Debate

Thursday, September 1, 2011 | 10:33 AM

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(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog and YouTube Blog)

If you’ve been watching the 2012 Republican presidential race from the sidelines, now is your chance to get involved: Google and FOX News will present a GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida on September 22, and you can drive the conversation by submitting and voting on questions for the candidates. The Fox News/Google Debate will combine the questions you submit on YouTube with maps, facts and information to enrich and guide the discussion. You can vote thumbs up or down on the questions using Google Moderator, and many of the top-voted will be put straight to the candidates to answer. The result—an informative dialogue about the future of our country centered on the issues you care most about. You can submit your questions starting today, in video or in text, at The debate will be live streamed on YouTube as well as broadcast on the FOX News Channel at 9pm ET on Thursday, September 22. Throughout the evening, we’ll use Google’s public data and search trends on air to give greater context to the questions, and help you make a more informed decision at the polls come November 2012. We hope you’ll join us—submit your question now and let your voice be heard.

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