Blogger Renee DiResta recently wrote a fascinating piece on the popular assumptions people have about each of the fifty states. She gathered the assumptions by using Google autocomplete’s “fill in the blank” method to generate popular adjectives Google-searchers associate with each state. Specifically, she typed “Why is [state] so” and Google offered a few options [X] to complete the question. DiResta reasons that this was the model setup to retrieve popular opinions of each state because it assumes that the search options offered are true.
This method can be used to generate popular assumptions about anything. It’s no in-depth scientific analysis or carefully crafted polling technique, but it does offer a quick, basic response to what day-to-day Googlers may think or question about a topic on a particular day. The results could easily change from one day to the next based on what people are searching. I thought why not use this method to find out what assumptions are being made about the Presidential candidates and their running mates right now?
I typed in “Why is [name] so” to generate [X]. This is what I came up with in my little five minute research project:
Why is Barack Obama so…
Why is Mitt Romney so…
Why is Joe Biden so…
Why is Paul Ryan so…
Of course, there are many variables and flaws to this sort of assessment. For example, we are not given any clear evidence as to why people think these things in the first place. We do not know what prompted the searchers to assume what they Googled. We also do not have any indication of the searchers’ demographics. All we know is that they are people who use Google—not much to go on. The results also vary from typing in the candidates’ first and last names and only their last names. In additon, some candidates have more search options than others. I imagine this has to do with how long each candidate has been in the spotlight. Although, I am surprised that Joe Biden only generated two search options since he is our current Vice President.
The results show a glimpse of not only what people think about the candidates, but also what kind of information they absorb the most from the media. In Presidential races, Americans don’t get their information from only the news. Anything from a sitcom to a drama to a talk show to a blog post to a “Best and Worst Dressed” magazine article can express some sort of opinion about the Presidential candidates and their running mates. Google autocomplete just simply boiled down the most commonly searched opinions that could have been based on any number of sources into these few results.
Give it a try now and see if you get the same results. It’s also pretty fun to do this with anything (or maybe I’m just really boring).
Why is cheese so…
Why is the sky so…
Why is the DMV so…
I could go on and on. Definitely check out Renee DiResta’s blog “Why Are Americans So…”. It offers an intriguing and much more thorough discussion about popular assumptions of each of the fifty states!