What Do Americans Think of the Presidential Hopefuls? Part 2: Republicans

In yesterday’s post we explored how the American public views the current Democratic presidential hopefuls. Today we’re taking a look at how America views the Republican candidates.

Several republicans have already expressed interest in making a run for commander-in-chief, with 3 of them (Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio) officially announcing first, and another 6 (Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, and Lindsey Graham) just recently  entering the race. Then there’s former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who just officially announced his bid for presidency yesterday.

First we took a look at the keywords driving traffic to the major news sites. We did the same analysis shortly after the first Democratic candidate announced (former Secretary of State and former First Lady Hilary Clinton). This time, we took a look at keywords driving traffic to three major news sites shortly after Rick Perry announced. He is the last Republican candidate to make his official bid for the Republican party (excluding Jeb Bush).*


Overall Search



When we conducted this analysis shortly after Clinton announced for the Democrats portion of this article, we were surprised that the majority of keyword traffic from the US wasn’t coming from search terms related to the race. Now that there are a combined 15 candidates from both parties in the race, we expected to see a lot more keyword traffic from their names, or about the race in general. Yet as the above search terms indicate, traffic to these news sites from Keywords is more heavily focused on national news. Specifically, the Duggar family sex scandal, and Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner. Rand Paul, a practicing physician (and son of former congressman and physician Ron Paul) is the first candidate on the list, coming in at number 21 before increasingly popular democratic contender Bernie Sanders at number 22.

So what do Americans think of the Republican candidates?


Ted Cruz

Right now, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are neck-in-neck in terms of popularity, but Ted Cruz seems to be slightly more popular (a search for Rand Paul’s name brought up 9 results, while Ted Cruz had 10). There’s also more keyword competition for Ted Cruz, whereas most variations of Rand Paul search terms are relegated to specific news sites.


Rand Paul

Of course, not all searches are good searches. As the stats show, neither candidate is immune to a little controversy. Cruz heavily criticized Obamacare in the past, but was later forced to sign up for the very health care plan he opposed. Meanwhile Rand Paul’s son was recently arrested for driving under the influence.  Both of these stories made their way into search results, and could potentially affect how voters perceive the candidates.randpaulfinal

Marco Rubio

Third to announce Republican hopeful Marco Rubio garnered much less search queries – his name only appeared 5 times on the list of keywords, with very little keyword competition. Like some of the other candidates, Rubio’s name was also associated with some negative press, including the 4th most searched query driving site traffic to Fox News, which was his stance on equal pay for women. Twice he voted against a bill to help equalize the wage gap, called the Paycheck Fairness Act. (Interestingly, Rand Paul also voted against the bill multiple times, yet this was not a top search query and did not even make the list).


Jeb Bush

Then there’s the other 10 republican would-be candidates, all of whom are expected to run. Among them is former Florida governor Jeb Bush and brother to former President George W. Bush. (At the time of writing, Bush had not yet officially declared his intent to run). Out of all the “probable” Republican candidates likely to make a bid for the presidency, Bush had the most search queries directing site traffic to the 3 major news sites; most notably to CNN.jebbushfinal


Whether it’s because of his family’s history in the White House or the younger Bush’s own political prowess, time will tell. And apparently the stats themselves are rather telling – about a week after this data was pulled, Jeb Bush “unofficially” announced his intent to run. Already there is plenty of interest in the former Gov., a great deal of which is centered on his views about the Middle East. It would seem that voters may be concerned that the younger Bush could follow in his family’s footsteps when it comes to foreign policy, particularly concerning both Iraq wars; the 2nd war was an especially dark spot in George W. Bush’s presidency.  Jeb Bush recently stated (rather controversially) that he values his brother’s insights on Middle Eastern policy, while maintaining that he has his own view and perception of things. This issue led to one of the most popular searches associated with Jeb Bush driving traffic to the 3 major news sites we analyzed. 8 out of the 24 searches revolved around a student at the University of Nevada confronting Jeb Bush with the accusation, “your brother created ISIS!”.

Together, keywords revolving around his views on the Middle East comprise 13 out of the top 24 Jeb Bush searches. Clearly, this is an issue of great concern for American voters, and it will likely play a crucial role in the Bush campaign. Whether this will ultimately have a positive or negative impact on his campaign remains to be seen.


George Pataki

They say there’s no such thing as bad press; this may be true for Republican hopefuls Carly Fiorina and Geroge Pataki, though for different reasons. At the time of analysis, there were no searches for George Pataki driving keyword traffic. Perhaps the public is simply uninformed about the former New York Governor, or perhaps his chance of becoming a serious contender isn’t great enough to create sufficient buzz. Perhaps there will be more searches once the race gains more momentum.


Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina has a few searches, though not as many compared to her competitors. One keyword search dominating the list is her role initiating massive layoffs while she was CEO of Hewlitt-Packard (HP). Her past came back to haunt her when someone else bought the domain carlyfiorina.org and chose to list the 30,000 employees that were let go during her tenure as CEO. Keywords related to her less-than-stellar record as HP CEO were amongst the top 3, indicating that Fiorina’s troubled tenure will continue to haunt her.carlyfiorinafinal

Ben Carson

Searches for Ben Carson were also fairly substantial, and much more positive than the traffic-driving keywords from Carly Fiorina’s name. Like Fiorina, though, Carson doesn’t have much political experience.bencarsonfinal


Carson is the author of 6 bestsellers and a former pediatric neurosurgeon. He is credited with being the first doctor to perform a successful cranial separation of conjoined twins. Carson’s wildly well-received speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast (also a strong longtail keyword driving traffic) helped catapult him to fame as a popular conservative figure. It will be interesting to see how he holds up as the race unfolds, against veteran politicians like Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum.


Rick Santorum

Speaking of Rick Santorum, surprisingly the senator representing Pennsylvania didn’t have a lot of keyword traffic. Although it did appear that users are interested in Santorum’s highly controversial views on abortion, as that is the 3rd most searched keyword associated with his name.ricksantorumfinal

Mike Huckabee

Former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee turned up with 4 search results, and half of these revolved around Huckabee’s defense of Josh Duggar amid the “19 kids and counting” Duggar family sex scandal. Since these are the 2nd and 3rd popular Huckabee keywords driving traffic to cnn.com, it would seem very beneficial for Huckabee to distance himself from the case.mikehuckabeefinal

Rick Perry

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry had 8 keywords directing website traffic, which isn’t half bad compared to some of the other contenders. To date, Perry is the lonest-serving Governor of Texas. But this did not appear in the search results – although his indictment certainly did. Just last year the then-Governor was indicted by a grand jury on felony charges for abuse of power. That doesn’t bode well for his presidential aspirations.rickperryfinal


Lindsey Graham

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham also announced his candidacy on June 1st. There are just 3 ‘Lindsey Graham’ search terms directing traffic to the news sites we analyzed, and 2 of them deal with his hardline stance on the Middle East. Graham was a staunch supporter of the previous Iraq war. And his plan to send thousands of troops to Iraq to combat ISIS has been met with an equal measure of criticism.

Graham also caused quite a lot of backlash when he made a statement claiming that the Iranians were lying about their nuclear plans. He said “Iranians are liars” because of his experience dealing with untrustworthy clients at his parents’ pool hall. “I ran the pool room when I was a kid and I met a lot of liars, and I know the Iranians are lying,” he said. While his commitment to wiping out terror may appeal to some, his statements have caused considerable controversy, and will likely hurt him during the race.lindseygrahamfinal

Final Thoughts on the Republican Race

There are an abundance of Republican candidates running this year, but based on the search results it would seem that some of them have a lot of work to do in order to compete with the strongest contenders. Jeb Bush had the most search terms directing traffic to the news sites, and these were keywords driving site traffic even before he officially announced. Of course, this can partly be attributed to his family, much like with Hillary Clinton – both candidates have history with the White House. Whether their respective “Dynasties” will help or hinder them in the race remains to be seen.

Then there are candidates like Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham whose controversial actions or statements could end up costing them the nomination – based on search queries alone, which are sometimes pretty accurate indicators of popular opinion. Some would argue that any press is better than no press, which seems to be the case for presidential hopeful George Pataki; so far his name has not generated traffic to any of the 3 news sites we analyzed.

It would seem that Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz have the lead in search. Out of all the candidates Carson has the least amount of political experience, but he also has a unique perspective as he comes from the medical field. It will be interesting to see how Carson holds up in the arena with his more seasoned political peers.

*Editor’s note: The stats from this article were collected before Jeb Bush officially announced his candidacy

About the Author -

Moshe Alexenberg is the Head of Content and Digital Insights at SimilarWeb. He has an MBA in Strategic Management and his online marketing expertise is in content marketing, digital storytelling, and data analytics.

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