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What Google can tell us about the Florida Republican primary

at 03:00 PM ET, 01/31/2012

What did Floridians want to know about former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in the runup to the Sunshine State’s primary?

Thanks to the folks at a perky Internet startup called Google, we have answers. (Special thanks to rock star Samantha Smith for gathering this data especially for the Fix.)

Here is a look at the four most searched terms in Florida related to Gingrich over the past week:

And here is the same top four for Romney:

Obviously, Gingrich’s top four search terms are not the ones that the former House Speaker would choose if he had his druthers. They also prove that the negative ad barrage from Romney and his affiliated super PAC really paid dividends. (“Newt ethics violations” is the second most searched term for Gingrich. Ouchy.)

Conversely, Romney’s personal history — “George” is his father’s name — dominates his searches. It’s not all positives for him either, however, with the controversy over the release of his tax returns appearing as the second most searched thing over the last week.

As we have written before, Google searches are not conclusive evidence of anything. We have no way of knowing how many of the searches are conducted by Republicans who will actually cast votes today or what the motives of those searching actually are. (Remember that Gingrich’s top four most-searched terms in South Carolina looked very similar to the Florida chart above and he still won that primary convincingly.)

What the Google search figures tell us then is what people in Florida are talking about, what the dominant buzz is in the state. Buzz and chatter aren’t determinative of vote patterns but they are damn interesting.

 
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