Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Surge in Web Searches for Gingrich in Florida

At 538, Nate Silver summarizes Newt Gingrich's surge in the polls leading up to next week's Florida primary, He also offers an updated forecast of the Florida primary based on those polls, showing Gingrich winning that state with 41.1% of the vote against 33.4% to Mitt Romney with Rick Santorum (11.3%) and Ron Paul (10.7%) splitting the remainder. This gives Gingrich about 55% of the two-candidate, Romney-Gingrich vote.

As part of my continuing efforts to figure out whether and how reliably web search volumes are indicative of positive affective attachment to a political figure or object (see here, here, here, here, here, and here), I am tracking the competition between Romney and Gingrich in Florida expressed through web search volumes associated with each candidate measured by Google Insights index scores (see here for a bit about how I use the Google data to evaluate candidates' relative standing).

Through Sunday, January 22, the day after the South Carolina primary, Gingrich has amassed a huge lead over Romney as an object of Florida-based web searches. The following figure illustrates the two candidate's share of their combined standing in Florida web searches from December 1, 2011 through January 22, 2012.
As late as January 16, Romney was attracting more than 80% of the two-candidate web-search volume leaving Gingrich with less than a fifth of the candidate's combined web searches. In the run up to and aftermath of Gingrich's win in the South Carolina, those figures have almost completely reversed. Gingrich now attracts almost three quarters of the two-candidate web search volume with Romney drawing only 26%.

Of course, these data end this past Sunday, so they capture the peak of Gingrich's South Carolina victory bounce without any subsequent natural decay or decline due to his sub-par debate performance or the sharpened criticisms leveled against him by his opponents. Still, these data reinforce the polling data that indicate that Romney's once-strong lead in Florida has utterly vanished and that Gingrich is now the Florida front-runner.

For me, the interesting question moving forward is whether subsequent polling and web search data show Gingrich continuing to surge upward in the polls towards the levels of relative support suggested by the web search data or whether his web-search standing declines to levels nearer his standing in the polls. Time will tell.

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