If they Google You, Do you Win?

In a way, this election is a referendum on “do actions speak louder than words”, is what people do in the privacy of their internet browsing more reflective of their future behavior than what they tell pollsters? And while I have focused on twitter as a barometer of public opinion, there are other data sources that could signal the private thoughts and future actions of voters. The linked NYT article, “If they Google you, Do you Win?”, mentions using the Google queries “Trump Clinton” vs. “Clinton Trump” as signals of voter interest, with the respective queries reflecting bias towards the candidate listed first, i.e. “Clinton Trump” would reflect bias towards Clinton. Using this methodology, I researched Google trends for Battleground states to see where public opinion may be. The data are displayed below.


For the month of October 2016, “Trump Clinton” leads “Clinton Trump” in every state with the exception of Nevada.

You might say Trump is a polarizing celebrity, and for that reason he may be top of mind even if the individual plans to vote for Clinton. Okay, well then let’s penalize Trump 10%. Even in that case, ‘Factored “Trump Clinton”‘ indicates that, with the exception of Nevada, the three states that are in play are Virginia, Iowa, and Florida.

So while it is unclear in which direction the election will result, I believe we may be surprised at how close the results turn out to be, and that one thing we may remember is the discrepancy between what was reported in the polls leading up to the election and what actually happened online. We only have 4 days left to see which source provides a clearer signal of truth, and until then….Good luck to both candidates!

Moral Foundations: Reddit Political Communities

Moral Foundations Theory is a social psychological theory intended to explain the origins of and variation in human moral reasoning. The theory proposes moral foundations such as fairness, care, in-group, authority, and purity, and has been popularized by psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind.

Haidt describes human morality as it relates to politics and proposes differences between conservatives and liberals as they relate to the moral foundations (TED Talk). Specifically, whereas conservatives appeal to fairness, care, in-group, authority, and purity equally, liberals appeal to fairness and care more than they appeal to in-group, authority, and purity.

Setting out to observe this phenomenon within Reddit Political Communities, I performed word frequency analyses on the /r/Republican and /r/Democrats corpora, totaling the words for each moral foundation, as defined by the LIWC dictionary. Comparing the totals, I found a trend consistent with Moral Foundations Theory. The visualization shows the moral foundations for /r/Democrats normalized against those for /r/Republican, with each value for /r/Republican set at 100%.