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Florida voters “solidly searched” Donald Trump online during Democratic debate

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Donald Trump’s popularity as a candidate, based on Internet searches in Florida, seem to have jumped to the opposing party during Saturday night’s Democratic Presidential Debate in New Hampshire.

Tallahassee-based Strategic Digital Services (SDS) released figures Monday examining Google Trends for Florida media markets throughout the final debate of the year. Many observers see online searches as one of the several factors assessing a candidate’s relative strength in a particular region.

SDS analyzed data for former U.S. Secretary of State and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Preliminary numbers found that Clinton was the most searched candidate in Miami, Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Pensacola. Sanders led in West Palm Beach and tied with Clinton in Miami. O’Malley was tops in Gainesville and Panama City, and tied with Clinton and Fort Myers.

However, when SDS added data for Republican front-runner Trump, the real estate billionaire led in three markets: Orlando and Pensacola; and he tied with Clinton and O’Malley in Fort Myers. Trump’s name was mentioned at least nine times during the debate.

SDS also found that Trump trended higher than O’Malley for nearly the entire debate, and was steadily searched at a modest volume by Florida voters throughout. No other Republican candidate saw search traffic during the Democratic debate.

“The highlight of this Google search data set is that Donald Trump was ‘solidly searched’ during a debate of a party of which he isn’t a member,” said SDS co-founder Matt Farrar. “Equally intriguing is that Hillary Clinton was not searched much during the debate, but that, undoubtedly, is because the electorate knows her. The intriguing part of this is what this means for her candidacy. It’s good news unless what the electorate knows about her they don’t like.”

Among the main takeaways from the research: Florida Democratic debate watchers wanted more personal information about candidates, such as the ages of Clinton and Sanders, and Sanders’ Jewish faith. Another spike for Sanders’ name came when he was talking about his wife and the changing the role of the first lady. This was similar to data from search traffic conducted during last week’s Republican debate

SDS also learned one interesting point: In Florida, football is king. Google search data during the debate found that the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys – the NFL game set for broadcast Saturday evening – had much higher search traffic in Florida than any of the candidates, even during most spikes in search activity. On the other hand, the only time a candidate beat football in searches was at 10:37 p.m., when Sanders discussed the changing role of a presidential spouse.

Democratic debate search traffic Democratic debate search traffic 2

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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