The latest polls from Iowa promise a potentially tight race for the first-in-the-nation caucuses. The last poll from the Des Moines Register shows Donald Trump with a strong lead over Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton in a statistical dead heat with Bernie Sanders.
Polling in general has come under increased scrutiny itself. Whether for political races or consumer research, tried and true methodologies have been blown up by the abandonment of land-line telephones. Many have researchers have switched to online surveys, but even those methods face questions for their reliability.
One emerging tool is internet search. The CDC now uses search as a “canary in the coal mine” to alert them of pockets of emerging illnesses such as the flu. Google Trends has shown surprising reliability in showing the strength of candidates too.
The latest Google Trends data out of Iowa clearly show that Trump and Hillary have the momentum. (Figure 1)
Search is not 100% reliable. While Google Trends showed former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum with a strong upward trend going into Iowa in 2012 it didn’t necessarily indicate he would win—he did.
But just as it showed Donald Trump picking up strong gains after the first republican debate in 2015 it does indicate social buzz and momentum and thereby provides a unique tool in measuring consumer, and in this case, political interests.
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