iCrossing: Democrat Obama Winning In Overall Search Volume, Republican John McCain Outspending Rivals On Paid Search

The finding that Republican presidential candidate and presumptive nominee John McCain is outspending (by 2x) Democrats Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton on issues as well as buying his opponents’ “brand terms” is one of the findings of a fascinating new iCrossing report, “How America Searches: Election ‘08 Update.”

Here are the key findings from the report:

The Internet’s influence on politics grows. The number of potential voters turning to the Internet for election information has increased by 31 percent since the original How America Searches: Election 2008 report was published in July, 2007. The Internet, previously tied with newspapers as the second most-popular channel, now leads newspapers 55 percent to 47 percent as an election information resource.

Issues still of top importance to searchers. Eighty-seven percent of potential voters search on an election issue, and finding more information about a candidate’s position on a specific issue remains the leading reason they conduct candidate searches (85%).

The economy and health care join war in Iraq and gas prices, as top issues of interest online. Interest in global warming cools. Searches related to the economy have grown 29 percent and global warming has been knocked out of the top 10 issues searched online. The most popular issues are currently health care (49%), the economy (49%), war in Iraq (48%), and gas prices (44%).

Candidate search volumes are up. Obama holds lead nationally and in Pennsylvania. Candidate search volumes have increased greatly since the original How America Searches: Election 2008 report, with Obama leading the number of voter searches by a wide margin. This margin over Clinton is also seen in searches conducted in Pennsylvania in the run-up to that state’s Democratic Primary.

Obama leads on natural search results for issues. All candidates weak on paid search results for issues. Barack Obama leads on issues-related natural search visibility, with 60 percent share of market followed by Ron Paul (36%), Hillary Clinton (3%), and John McCain (1%). Paid search on issues keywords is much lower than that of candidate keywords; McCain and Obama are each estimated to spend one percent of total paid spend on issues keywords, while Clinton’s presence in issues-based paid search results is negligible.

More women turn to the Web to learn about candidates and issues. The original How America Searches: Election 2008 report showed that men conducted election research online at much higher rates than women (47% vs. 38%). Currently, both genders rely on the Internet equally for election-related information; 56 percent of men and 54 percent of women.

TV is the only media channel that now exceeds the internet as a political information source. As one might expect, trusted and branded news sites (newspapers, TV networks) are the greatest draw for people looking for information. Search engines are often used to discover more information about issues.

Here are two interesting charts showing top issues searched for and a breakdown by gender:

iCrossing: search on issues by category

iCrossing: search on issues by gender

As mentioned, Barack Obama is the candidate winning in terms of overall search volumes. According to the report he also dominates natural search on a range of high-profile issues. While all the candidates fare poorly in the execution of their paid search strategies, John McCain is outspending Obama. He is also the only candidate doing issue-oriented paid search advertising despite the fact that this is where the search volume is.

The report explains:

Paid search estimates show that McCain and Obama are spending much less on issues-related keywords than they are on candidate-related keywords, approximately one percent, and that McCain is spending more than twice as much as Obama. Barack Obama’s spend seems to be focused on two keywords: democratic party and democratic nomination. McCain appears to be spending on 16 issues-related keywords . . .

The report is a follow up to a similar study from July, 2007. A copy can be obtained here.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Search & Society: General | Stats: Search Behavior

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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