Taking the ‘foreign policy’ out of foreign policy debate

October 23, 2012

We've said for a while on this blog that foreign policy quite simply isn't a priority for the vast majority of American voters right now.

And that was definitely the case Monday night — even in a debate that was supposed to be about foreign policy. Throughout the debate, the candidates seemed anxious to return to issues of domestic policy.

There's a reason for that: People are much more interested in those issues. In fact, according to Google analytics, most of the buzziest search terms related to the candidates had nothing to do with foreign policy.

For Romney, the top four were totally separate from the theme of the debate: "auto bailout," "budget plan" and our two favorites, "what is on flag pin" and "what kind of car does Mitt drive."

Similarly, when it came to the buzziest moments in the debate, the top two moments had to do with Romney's budget plan and his position on the auto bailout, which seemed to be perhaps the biggest area of interest in the debate.

Some moments where you don't see a spike in Google searches? When Obama hit Romney hard on his position on pursuing Osama bin Laden and when Obama made his "horses and bayonets" comment on military spending — two moments that analysts saw as defining the debate.

Google searches, of course, aren't a perfect indicator of what mattered in the debate. But they do show what sparked people's desires to learn more.

And it wasn't foreign policy.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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