Primary Nomination Tracking with Google Trends and Stream Graphs

Data Journalism

October 4, 2023


I’ve stopped the automated generation of charts in this post on February 26, 2024. At this point it feels we have a clear primary winner who has won all the states so far.


Yes, I guess I’m on a bit of a google trends kick lately. The more I look into searches, the more I’m impressed by the interesting and vast amount of data avaiable.

For example, i recently learned that Google Trends is quite effective in predicting large elections here and here. I even went through the exercise of looking myself at the last 5 US elections. Excluding the 2020 election, the winning candidate had more search volume months leading up to the elections. The trend did not hold for Trump’s last election, but maybe we chalk that up to Trump being a peculiar candidate or 2020 being a peculiar year.

Honing in on the GOP Primary Nomination

My thought was that if Google Trends can be effective for US Presidential Elections, what about Primaries? Instead of diving into the past, I thought I would make one tracking the race right now, and worry about that other stuff later.

To visualize the race, I wanted to make a stream chart for two reasons:

  1. You can see the relative importance each candidate has to one another given by vertical distance of each color at a given point in time.
  2. You also get a sense of the total search volume of all candidates given by the vertical distance of all colors at a given point in time. I plan to keep this chart updated up until the primary election. I guess we’ll see how accurate it is in the end 🤷‍♂️.

This graph is updated on a daily basis to provide continuous context to the GOP Primary Election. This graph was last updated: 22:12:02 on 17 Apr 2024

Figure 1: Google Trends Data From January of the Top Candidates for the Republican Party.

Observation 1

For these charts like other Google Trends data, its helpful to read the spikes. For example, we can see different candidates spiking at different times. Nikki Haley spikes in mid-February then dies down after she announces her run. Trump spiked in April from trial stuff. Vivek Ramaswamy spiked after the first debate as did Trump, and Ron DeSantis seems to be gradually declining since May.

Observation 2

Overall, it seems like Trump is taking the lionshare of hits with the others following behind.


I expect the graph to look more and more like a funnel as the primary nomination approaches and more people search these candidates, but we’ll see 👀

Figure 2: Aggregated Google Trends data of popular GOP Primary candidates in the last 10 days of available Google Search data. It is usually delayed by three days.

This graph is updated on a daily basis to provide continuous context to the GOP Primary Election. This graph was last updated: 22:12:09 on 17 Apr 2024

This graph is provided to give a barometer reading of a candidates recent popularity/news coverage.

Observation 3

As of the time of me writing this, the bar chart below looks very similar to polling aggregator predictions for the primary elections. Trump is leading at 56% of the hits (polling aggregator says 55%) with the others following behind. More people are searching Ramaswamy and Haley than DeSantis contrary to the polling aggregator which could indicate any number of things including DeSantis is losing popularity. I expect this to change quickly with the pattern of the news cycle.