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Search Intelligence: Predicting Election Outcomes With Search Insights

A part of AMP’s Search Intelligence service is monitoring and analyzing changes in monthly keyword data such as estimated impressions and average monthly search volume to uncover insights about an audience or category. If you’re familiar with our Google Search Trends Insights series, you’ll know we’re already fans of using Google Trends to work out what’s weighing most heavily on the American mind. Today, we want to apply our Search Intelligence service to tomorrow’s election to see if we can predict which candidate is going to win in three critical midwestern swing states. To make these predictions, we used Google Keyword Planner’s Estimated Impressions metric to gauge the relative popularity of Trump and Biden branded merchandise. We used this US News article to decide which swing states to analyze and we have some interesting insights to share for three of them- Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Our Thinking
In 2016, the small Chinese city of Yiwu accurately predicted the outcome of the American election by noting that the city’s many small goods factories were selling much more Trump merchandise versus Clinton merchandise. We are applying the same rationale, that demand for merchandise tracks popular support, to several swing counties located in swing states. By using Google Keyword Planner’s Estimated Impressions metric, we can speculate how popular each candidate’s merch has been in each county and thus how that county is likely to vote. While it’s true that not every voter orders a sign or hat online, we still believe the data is useful because voters who vocally support a candidate may be likely to influence their friends, family, and neighbors.

Can Search Behavior Be Predictive?

Search insights, like the ones we gathered from Google Trends and Keyword Planner, can be a good indicator of future events because it can be used to identify historic trends which are likely to continue. Businesses can use this data  to determine which types of products they should be producing and how they should be marketing those products. By analyzing search insights about a topic over time, you can discover the increased public demand for a certain product type or variety. This particular function of Search Intelligence is called search listening.

For example, we can conduct a search listening exercise on a topic like “multivitamin” and uncover the insight that “multivitamin” keywords modified by the words “iron free” are seeing an increase in popularity, or that “sugar free multivitamin” is seeing a decline.

Search Intelligence vs. Polling

Search Intelligence can deliver insights you aren’t likely to get from other methods such as focus groups or polling. This is because Search Intelligence data is self-selected. You’re analyzing a population’s Google searches instead of depending on a third party pollster to successfully make contact with a person and then successfully persuade them to answer a question honestly. Search Intelligence data comes from people who sought out the search engine and entered their burning questions into it. Search engines are judgment free environments which are accessible to a huge swath of the population, so the data we can glean from them should be valued as an important input when examining or predicting behavior.

Methodology

To determine the relative popularity of Trump and Biden in the swing counties, a list of 40 “merchandise” associated keywords was inputted to Keyword Planner and then their estimated monthly impressions for November 2020 were aggregated and divided between “Trump supporting keywords” and “Biden supporting keywords”. In total, there are 40 keywords divided into eight categories:

  1. Button
  2. Flag
  3. Hat
  4. Merchandise
  5. Shirt
  6. Sign
  7. Sticker
  8. Store

All variations of a candidate’s name and campaign are accounted for, so not only are we tracking estimated impressions for “Trump sign” and “Biden sign” but also variations such as “Joe Biden sign” and “Trump Pence sign”.

Predicted State Victors According to Merch Sold in Swing Counties
If estimated merchandise impressions were the sole metric which decided the outcome of the election in these swing counties, we would feel confident calling the following three states for either President Donald Trump or Former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Pennsylvania – Winner: Trump

pa-sorter

Our Search Intelligence analysis indicates that President Donald Trump is likely to win Pennsylvania. He appears to have maintained his 2016 support in the seven counties he won in the previous elections and appears to be ahead of Former Vice President and presidential candidate Biden in two more counties, including the critical swing county of Lackawanna. In Lackawanna county three of the top five merchandise searches belong to Trump.

lackawana

Trump also appears to be winning the Philadelphia suburb of Montgomery County. The query “Trump store” has nearly 1.6X the amount of estimated impressions as the highest Biden query, “Biden Harris sign”.

montgom

It is worth noting here that at the time this data was aggregated the Real Clear Politics average of polls was giving Biden a +3.6 advantage in the state and that the political futures market PredictIt had Biden as a clear favorite, with one share of “Yes Biden will win PA” selling for $0.63 whereas shares of “Yes Trump will win PA” were only selling for $0.39.

Michigan – Winner: Biden

unnamed (2)

President Donald Trump appears to be losing ground in Michigan. According to this Search Intelligence analysis Trump is behind Biden in three of the four counties he won last time and all other counties which went Clinton in 2016. Looking at the two swing counties Trump is losing in 2020, the advantage in merch impressions clearly belongs to Joe Biden.

unnamed (3)saginaw

Wisconsin – Winner: Trump

wisconsin

Trump merchandise is generating more impressions than Biden merchandise in four of the five Wisconsin swing counties. Trump is underperforming Biden in Kenosha county, a county he won in 2016 but to make up for this he is overperforming in Eau Claire and La Crosse counties. With Trump winning merchandise impressions in 70% of total counties and 80% of swing counties, the data shows that he is doing better in the state than either the RCP average of poll or PredictIt indicate.

At AMP Agency, we provide our clients with search insights as a data point to inform business decisions. Our passion for this leads us to explore search insights around major events such as elections as well because it’s another data point we can use to inform ourselves and understand the world around us. If you’re already practicing Social Listening or are gathering insights from polls or focus groups, Search Intelligence is another great tool to add to the mix. After all, no one lies to Google.

To learn more about Search Intelligence and our SEO services, contact us.

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