The web giant has launched a hub for the 2012 election that tracks the popularity of presidential candidates using search trends, mentions in Google News and YouTube views, rather than more traditional polling data.
Google's new politics site, available at Google.com/elections, marks the company's latest effort to move beyond indexing information and to develop its own content in a bid to capture more users and more of their time. The project follows in the footsteps of other initiatives such as YouTube's alleged $100 million investment in original web-based programming, and Google's purchase of Zagat and expansion of its Google Maps business listings, which have been aimed at growing Google into a content provider, not just a search engine.
The most compelling feature of Google's Election 2012 site is a "Trends" tool that compares how interest in each candidate, as measured by search volume, video views, and news mentions, has changed over time. The side-by-side view of each candidates' popularity can also be sorted by state, or by day, week, or month.
In addition, Google has created an interactive "On the Ground" tool that maps articles and videos according to the city or county where they originated. Iowa is currently the only state for which the information is available. Users can also see Google News results for each of the candidates, or track the latest coverage of key campaign issues such as healthcare, unemployment, and national security.
Google wrote in a blog post that its 2012 hub is targeted at "voters, journalists and campaigns," adding that "[c]ampaign staffers, advocates and even you can utilize our tools and features to reach, engage and inspire voters."
As the Iowa caucuses draw closer, other companies have also debuted online features that harness social media statistics to track each candidates' success.
The Washington Post launched the Mention Machine, which tallies how many times a candidate has been mentioned on Twitter or in the news in the past week. Ron Paul leads with the most Twitter mentions -- 266,426 to be precise, far ahead of President Obama, who is in second place with 86,900 Twitter mentions -- while Obama has garnered the most mentions in the news. The Washington Post will feature data from the Mention Machine alongside stories about the 2012 election, and reporters will "editorialize the data to provide even more context behind the tool," the Washington Post said in a press release.
SocialBakers, a research company tracking social media statistics, has debuted a series of infographics showcasing Facebook data that measures "engagement and changes in online candidate popularity." According to SocialBakers' analysis, Mitt Romney has more Facebook fans than any of the other Republican presidential candidates, with Ron Paul, followed by Michele Bachmann, in second place.