The debate is heating up over who should be the next President of the United States and candidates are doing everything they can to make their case for why they are fit to run the country. When it comes to gaining the edge, United States Senator Bernie Sanders has the advantage in one department according to The Washington Post on December 9, 2015. The Google algorithm may be responsible for helping Bernie Sanders gain votes due to the results that are returned when his name is searched for using the Google search engines.
A recent Pew Research Center Poll shows that 75% of Americans get their news online and most of the time the first query point is the Google search engine. This is especially true when it comes to getting news about presidential candidates. Unfortunately for some candidates, Google’s search results are not always neutral.
In a new study published by Slate researchers analyzed the top 10 search results returned by Google for each of the 16 Democratic and Republican candidates. Once all of the results were tallied the research team used a crowdsourced team of reviewers to determine whether the results painted candidates in a positive, neutral, or negative light at first glance. The results of the study as well as the factors used to judge candidates were fairly interesting.
The study found that certain types of pages and stories painted a more positive picture for searchers than others. For instance, if a candidate’s Facebook page showed up in the top 10 results, candidates had a more positive image versus when a critical news story about candidates showed up which painted a negative image. Overall, the study found that Democratic candidates were shown in a far more positive light than Republican candidates with Democratic candidates having an average of 7 out of 10 positive search results versus an average of 5.9 positive search results for Republican candidates.
Researchers say that the results of the study do not prove that Google is in the pocket of Democrats but rather say the results are due to the complexity of the Google search engine algorithm. Recently, Google started using a machine called RankBrain to sort through its search results according to Search Engine Land, and the machine is coupled with Hummingbird which is the official name of the Google search algorithm. These two pieces of technology along with more than 200 page ranking factors that Google uses to determine which results are returned when a person searches for news and information on presidential candidates as well as everything else under the sun could explain why results were so favorable for Senator Bernie Sanders.
According to analysis of the study, 9 out of 10 results returned for Senator Bernie Sanders were positive and were rated “very pro” by the crowdsourced team. The Vermont Senator has a very strong social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms and those are the types of results that were returned. Compare these results with the results of Texas Senator Ted Cruz who has a far less social media presence and only 5 positive results returned.
Senator Ted Cruz is not the only GOP candidate with image problems in the Google search results. In fact, Republican candidate Donald Trump also had an equal number of negative results which is no surprise due to the negative publicity he is creating for himself lately. The good news for Republican candidates is they still have time to create a more positive image in the Google search results before the November 2016 elections get here.
According to online business developer Jeff Sherwood from Money Buys Dreams, all candidates need to do to build a more positive image in the search results is copy what Bernie Sanders is doing. “Candidates should be more active on their social media profiles and make sure they are generating positive publicity for the Google News results that will stay at the top of the search rankings until the election is over,” says Sherwood. “In my business I routinely show people how to duplicate the results of others by going out and creating those same results for themselves, and someone as hot as a presidential candidate would have no problem creating a better image in the search results with a little bit of effort.”
The study published by Slate should definitely be a point of interest for all presidential candidates since the internet has proven to affect decisions made by consumers. In fact, one study shows that the biased search rankings can shift voting preferences of undecided voters by 20% or more. As it stands right now, Senator Bernie Sanders stands to gain a huge advantage at the poles in the November 2016 presidential election.