In anticipation of the Republican presidential primary in Puerto Rico on Sunday, we decided to take a look at Google Trends to gauge the interest of residents there in the Republican candidates. Unfortunately to the candidates, interest does not seem high, save for one exception: Donald Trump.
Taking a look at the graph from 2004 (for some reason graphs narrowing the date do not show all the data) we see Trump dominating search queries on Google since April 2015.
Diving deeper, we see that Trump has been at the top of the list of candidates in terms of interest to Puerto Ricans, especially in June and April of 2015, and in February 2016.
An interesting note in these charts is that while Marco Rubio has a steady and upward-trending interest index score, it is still low in comparison to Trump. While Rubio is expected to win, based on prediction markets, and has the support of the local party leadership, that so few residents are interested in him could mean trouble. The contest is already expected to draw a very low number of voters (Presidential politics are often ignored by the local media), and if not enough voters show up to support Rubio, Trump could end up snatching another victory, and what could be Rubio’s mere second victory in the race.
Another possible complication for Rubio, is the fact that Ted Cruz jumped in line over him in terms of interest in Puerto Rico Google searches. Now, online searches are not equivalent to actual support, but they do give insight as to the overall interest in the race. And in Puerto Rico, the interest is so low, most of Google Trends’ charts do not have enough data to show results.
These low search volumes can be the effect of multiple factors such as the territory’s insular media and political market, the lack of attention the public receives and gives to national politics, but also the lack of campaigning in Puerto Rico by the candidates. Comparing the search index values of Republicans now, to then senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s, who did campaign for their primary (especially Clinton, although that was a much tighter race), we see a huge difference. From the period of January to June 2008, when the Puerto Rico Democratic primary was held in 2008, both candidates had a surge in interest in online searches, one that held steady through June and then wavered off, as the race settled.
We now know Rubio will hold a campaign event in Puerto Rico (and presumably attend) on Saturday March 5, but it might be too little too late to cause a major shift in interest or support for that matter. On Sunday we will find out if these interest scores held any correlation to the final result of the primary.