I was on vacation in upstate New York last week, paying only sporadic attention to the news -- by my standard, at least (which admittedly still means more frequent news-watching than a normal person). But Donald Trump was still inescapable: When my aunt and uncle stopped by, he was one of the first topics to come up.
By now, it's dull to point out that the guy is fascinating to watch and analyze. It's one reason that the media (curse that media!) is so obsessed with the guy. He's interesting! You pretty much know what Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are going to say; you can't say the same about Trump.
Since he announced his candidacy -- at about the same time as Bush, we'll note -- people have searched for Trump on the Internet far more than any other 2016 candidate.
Search interest in Trump is more akin to actual celebrities. He regularly outpaces Kim Kardashian, for example.
(Even in my mini-media-isolation, by the way, I heard that Ms. Kardashian will become first lady on Jan. 20, 2021.)
And as Trump has dominated the public's attention, he has perhaps-not-surprisingly spiked in the polls.
On that graph, notice that Bush outpaces Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), despite each having about the same level of search interest over the past 90 days. This re-raises the eternal question: How much are public interest and news interest in the candidates linked? Trump's Google searches have slipped over the past week or so (not entirely because of my being mostly offline).
So does this mean that he'll slip in the polls, too?
If we compare the number of media mentions by week (bars) and with polls completed during the same seven-day period (dots) for Bush and Trump, we see two different patterns. Bush got a big boost from his announcement that faded over time -- even as the number of mentions he got in the news stayed about even. Trump's numbers rose with his mentions in the media and kept rising even as those mentions dropped a bit.
There are a lot of other factors here -- the size and fluctuations within the field being an important one. And of course Trump still gets a lot more attention from the media and public than his competitors. But it looks as though it's enough to keep him well in the lead even as that attention wanes slightly.
Will this hold up over the long term? There's nothing on the horizon to suggest interest in Trump will start to drop off precipitously. But it would be fascinating to see what would happen if it did. With modest dips in media attention and Google searches, Trump has maintained -- and grown! -- his position in the polls. It's not what you'd expect.
But, then, it's Donald Trump. Nothing about his campaign is what you'd expect. Which, of course, is one reason why everyone loves to talk about him.