John Johnson, an MIT Ph.D. who crunches data for a living, cautioned that examining searches may not tell you who is voting and why, or whether they are actually going to vote for a candidate.
“Although the data can’t tell the whole story, it does imply the media narratives may not reflect what voters really care about,” Johnson said. “That said, it is just interesting which headlines people are searching the most. You don’t see major policy stories among the top, but the more sensational stories about Clinton body doubles and Trump’s reaction to a pastor.
People are boning up on the candidates ahead of their first debate. On Sunday, New Hampshire was the only state where Clinton was searched more than Trump, according to Bing. By Sunday night, Colorado, New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia and New Hampshire are all searching Clinton more than Trump.
Trump had been the top searched topic of all 50 states for more than a week, and then a day before the debate Clinton searches pulled ahead of Trump searches in several states.
On the policy front, picking up after Social Security, gun control was fourth-most searched topic on people’s minds, drug policy was fifth and immigration reform — remember the Great Wall? — came in sixth.
This isn’t a poll, but it is telling for a couple of reasons. We are talking about billions of anonymous search queries between Aug. 22 and Sept. 22 that were classified into policy issues.
Bing’s product manager, Shahar Ronen, said in an email that “search queries provide more honest insights into what really interests people. Social media users may be preoccupied with projecting a certain public image of themselves, whereas searchers are looking for information in private.”
In other words, Bing’s searches may be unmasking the fact that there are lots of people who are seriously considering Trump or Clinton, but won’t admit it to their friends.
Another thing: Bing Predicts, which calls everything from NFL games to “Dancing with the Stars,” said that if the vote were held today, Clinton has a 68.9 percent chance to win in November, and would capture 308 electoral votes to Trump’s 230. But that has been tightening. Last week, Clinton’s chances were pushing 80 percent.
Rounding out the rest of the most-searched policy issues are the environment, LGBT rights, education, tax reform and, coming in at number 11, abortion.
Bing also separated the search topics to find out the specific subjects pertaining to the candidates that people were examining. Here they are:
1. Donald Trump almost missed getting on the ballot in Minnesota
2. Teresa Barnwell, Hillary Clinton’s ‘body double,’ debunks rumors
3. Donald Trump: Pastor who stopped me talking was ‘nervous mess’
4. Facebook co-founder pledging $20 million to defeat Trump
5. Melania Trump releases letter from lawyer on immigration status
6. Pneumonia bug that struck Clinton also seriously sickened her staff
7. Don King uses racial epithet while introducing Donald Trump
8. Clinton cancels California trip as she recovers from health episode
9. Hacker ‘Guccifer 2.0’ releases more DNC docs in new leak
10. Skittles issues terse response to Donald Trump Jr. refugee tweet
11. George H.W. Bush ‘voting for Hillary’
12. Hillary Clinton returns to campaign trail after illness
13. Gary Johnson wants to eliminate the Department of Homeland Security
14. Local Democrats want Donald Trump, Mike Pence off Minn. ballot
15. Fact checking Wednesday’s ‘commander-in-chief’ forum