Right after each Presidential Debate both sides and all the big news organizations immediately conduct polls to determine how each candidate did and which issues resonated the most with voters. It is an expensive process that keeps an entire cottage industry of pollsters in business. But one of the best forms of instant voter feedback might be Google.
The most popular search terms during the last debate on Wednesday included “Roe v. Wade” and “Joe the Plumber.” But, less predictably, “charter schools” and “school vouchers” also seemed to hit a nerve. Or at least people wanted to learn more about them. When the candidates talked about a “litmus test” for nominating Supreme Court Justices that too sent people to their keyboards.
Maybe some people just wanted to know what a litmus test is and what it has to do with picking judges, or what the difference is between a charter school and a school voucher. The fact that people are searching for these terms tells us nothing about how they feel about them. But it does suggest that they want to learn more about them. That is an opportunity for each side to hone their message around education and judges, for example, in the final weeks of the campaign. Or they can just keep going negative. That seems to work too.
Now, what would be really great is if Google Trends offered up the option to see such live search trends by the hour. (The most granular you can get right now is the last 30 days). Maybe an engineer there can turn that into a new 20-percent project to disrupt the polling industry.