Who’s the Most Googled Presidentiable?
I SELDOM google the names of presidential candidates or any politician running for office this coming 2010 elections. In the past few days, I searched at least three presidential candidates and was appalled to know that none of them offer a concrete political platform. All of them prattle on about absurd principles, policies, and compromising stand on a number of crucial issues. I think that the only interesting thing about the coming polls is that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is going to end her tumultuous, questionable stay in power. Unfortunately, nobody offers concrete government programs and clear-cut stand on such crucial issues as economy, peace and order, Mindanao issue, corruption, governance, and individual rights. This is perhaps the reason why I failed to register, but thanks to the decision of the Supreme Court extending voters’ registration up to January 9 or 120 days before the scheduled May 10 elections.
I googled the names of the following presidential candidates vying for the highest post in the land— Noynoy Aquino, Gilbert Teodoro, and Manny Villar. To be honest, I think that their economic platforms are vague and full of mixed premises. They all talk about economic progress and job creation, but they failed to elaborate the means to achieve these ends. I believe the government has no business creating jobs, but this is another story. The only proper function of the government is to protect individual rights. Of course the government has the power to create jobs, but only indirectly, by means of encouraging local and foreign investors to put up business in the country. Now I’m speaking of capitalism, which is the only economic system that can save this country.
In order to win, these presidentiables need to have money, political machinery, charisma, and popularity. We must admit, although I hate to believe this is really the case, that elections in this poor country are based on personalities. National election is very different from local polls. National candidates need to rely on money, strong political machinery, and popularity to win. For local candidates, they need to have goons, gold, and guns. Local electoral process in the country is a lot bloodier than national elections. The gruesome Maguindanao massacre is a striking reminder to Filipino voters.
In our age, it must be observed that technology has brought both local and national elections to a different level. Technology is most important to national candidates, especially those who seek the presidency. The Internet, for example, is an infinite domain of ideas. National politicians can invest in cyber-publicity to boost their image and increase their level of popularity among voters. Some of the new media technologies that can help boost the image and popularity of presidential bets are social network sites like Facebook and Friendster, blogsites like WordPress and Multiply, video-sharing channels like YouTube, and websites. Now there’s a way for voters to get to know these presidentiables and this is through googling their names, political parties or any other terms associated with them through the search engine. Today, Google is what most people use to search anything under the sun.
Now let me give my simple insight into the impact of Google search engine on the popularity and ‘winnability’ of the presidentiables. Today the Comelec officially trimmed down the number of presidential candidates to eight. These political aspirants running for presidency are (by alphabetical order) Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III (Liberal Party), JC de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran) and former President Joseph Estrada (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino). Sen. Richard Gordon (Bagumbayan), Sen. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal (Independent), former Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro (Lakas-Kampi-CMD), Bro. Eddie Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas) and Sen. Manuel Villar (Nacionalista Party).
Let us compare the search-engine impact of these presidentiables using Google Insights for Search, a service by Google similar to Google Trends. It provides insights into the search terms people have been entering into the Google search engine. Now let me state that Google Insights only allows four search terms. This means that the eight candidates cannot be compared in just one graph.
I started with Aquino, Teodoro, Villar, and Estrada. For Aquino, I used the search terms “Benigno Aquino” and “Noynoy.” For Villar, I used “Manny Villar”; Estrada, “Joseph Estrada” and “Erap”; and for Teodoro, “Gilbert Teodoro” and “Gibo.” Now observe that the graph below (Graph 1) shows Aquino as the ‘most searched’ among these four candidates. He is followed by Estrada (yellow line), Villar (red line), and Teodoro (green line). It is interesting to note that Aquino (blue line) was virtually unknown to searchers until July 26 to August 1 this year, while Villar and Estrada were two of the top searches before Aquino filed his candidacy. Aquino’s search engine popularity skyrocketed from August 2 to 8. Before that nobody was googling Aquino. What happened during this period? Aquino’s mother, former President Cory Aquino, died. Searches for Aquino declined in the following weeks but they still surpassed the search engine popularity of both Villar and Estrada. The Senator’s search engine impact increased from August 30 to September 5. This is the period wherein Aquino declared his intention to run for president. His popularity among searchers peaked from September 6 to 12, a period wherein an SWS survey was released showing Aquino as the most popular among the presidentiables.
From September 13 to 19, Teodoro (green line) hit the search engine and started to rival the popularity of Estrada (yellow line). Both Teodoro and Estrada formalized their entry into the presidential race during this period. It is also interesting to observe that while Villar has a consistent search engine popularity, Teodoro’s impact picked up in the month of December. Google yielded the following search terms people used to hunt Teodoro online— “Gibo Teodoro”, “Noynoy Aquino”, “Manny Villar”, and Gilbert Teodoro biography.” Search terms linked to Estrada include “Gloria Arroyo”, “Fidel Ramos”, “jokes”, and “Erap jokes.”
Furthermore, Aquino’s popularity ebbed from December 6 to 12, while hits for Estrada and Teodoro continued to increase. Villar during this period was relegated to the sideline. What’s interesting about the search engine results on Villar is their consistency. I can assume that Teodoro gained a tremendous lead over Estrada and Villar and nearly beat Aquino because of the unfolding issues after the Maguindanao Massacre. As former Defense Secretary, Teodoro became more exposed to the media after he massacre incident that gave the national government a big role in Maguindanao.
Meanwhile, the graph below (Graph 2) shows Villanueva (blue line) leading against Gordon (yellow line), Madrigal (red line), and de los Reyes (green line), who is virtually unknown among Google searchers.
To test the popularity of Villanueva if compared with the “big four” above, the result yields the graph below (Graph 3) wherein the evangelist-politician did not even register. This means that searches for Villanueva are not enough to register when lumped in the company of the big three candidates.
Let me tell you that search engine popularity is not an indication that a political aspirant is sure to get the votes of the electorate. It only indicates that the most-searched politician has impact on Internet users, and the mode of such an impact depends upon a number of real-world factors. A public figure is googled because of certain issues that are linked to his name or position. Estrada maintains “search-ability” because of a number of corruption issues and cases that were linked to him. Add to this the fact that he gained popularity after declaring his candidacy. This means that Google search impact means that an individual can be positively or negatively famous among searchers. It’s not a guarantee that Aquino, Villar or Teodoro have advantage over their rivals because they are the most searched presidentiables. In my case, I googled the names of Aquino, Villar, and Teodoro to only know their political platforms. It’s only I have the power to decide.
Finally, the following are some of the reasons why Google search popularity is not to be considered a factor of “positive popularity”:
a) Only a fraction of the Filipino population has access to Internet;
b) There are certain factors why a politician is googled, and these can be good or bad, negative or positive, politically destructive or constructive, among others.
c) Most people from middle class to upper class have regular Internet access.
d) Google searchers can be non-voters.
e) The number of Google searches is not an indication of presidential choice.