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Google Trends Has Cat Brooks Over Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

If Google Trends current information is to be taken as a predictor of the outcome of the Oakland Mayoral Election, then a cold, direct, dispassionate reading of it points to an Election Day victory for Cat Brooks over current Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

But What’s Google Trends?

But what’s Google Trends? Google Trends is the online web-based application that takes your queries on how much people search for a given topic or subject. Google Trends was launched May 11th, 2006, and helped fuel the rise of blogging as a form of news media. Why? Because it helps bloggers determine what people want to read about so we’re able to write timely and informative posts.

In 2012, I ran a series of vlogs as part of The Blog Report With Zennie62, based around Google News. Here’s my episode on Google Trends and Martin Short, Kathy Lee Gifford, and DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act):

Can Google Trends Predict An Election?

The question is, can Google search volume predict who wins a local political election? There’s plenty of data on how effective Google Trends has been in picking the winners of national and state elections – just consider that it predicted Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential victory. However, there’s little really definitive information on local political races.

But, before I continue on what research says about Google Trends, let’s look at what I found that caused me to write the headline for this post.

This is what you have to do to get what I got:

First, go to Google Trends as of today, Sunday November 4th 2018 at 12:34 PM EST and compare 2018 Oakland Mayoral Election candidates Mayor Schaaf, Cat Brooks, Pamela Price, Saied Kamarooz, and Ken Houston,

Second, set the Google Trends system to present search data for the last 30 days of the campaign, all categories, and web search, treat Mayor Schaaf as a subject and not a topic (I will explain why below).

Third, restrict search results to only for San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose (and because the system doesn’t have enough data to drill down only to Oakland right now).

If you do all of that, and at something close to my time-frame, you’ll see something like what I saw. This…

Libby Schaaf Cat Brooks 30 days Google Trends
Libby Schaaf Cat Brooks 30 days Google Trends

Overall, Cat Brooks leads Libby Schaaf by just a hair, 25 to 24, with Pamela Price a distant second at 12, Ken Houston at 4, and a zero for Saied Kamarooz (sorry, Saied, that’s the way it goes). Then, look at the final trend lines for the date of November 1, 2018, and you will see that Cat’s far ahead of everyone with a score of 100, versus 60 for Mayor Schaaf, and then 30 for Pamela Price and zero for Saied Kamarooz and Ken Houston. And that now leads us to a discussion of the difference between a “subject” and a “topic”.

Of all candidates, only one is a subject: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. I decided to use search results for her as a subject because to use only her results as if she were a topic is to try and strip her of her title as Mayor of Oakland – that’s a dishonest approach. It is an attempt to say that the advantage of incumbency is meaningless, when it’s a key driver in why people may vote for a person who’s holding a position, rather than someone who has not held it before.

The other problem with the use of “topic” and not “subject” is one runs the risk of capturing search trends that are the result of a persons conducting searches that happen to have two keywords that happen to form a name, like “Libby” and “Schaaf” – the more common the name, like “Pamela Price”, the more likely that’s the case. (But in “Pamela Price” case, because she’s the only one running, there’s a healthly amount of first-page results content about her, and nothing about any other “Pamela Price”, so we’re in the clear, there.)

Anyway, I did run a test for Libby as a topic and found that her results were less by 10 points, or from 60 to 50, than when she was a subject – so it makes a difference, that distinction.

However, even with that, Cat Brooks wins. (And folks, this is not my official endorsement. Don’t even go there. I feel the need to tell what I see, and let the data take me where it goes, and report it to you. The result is the result.)

What About Google Trends Set For The Past 90 Days?

I wondered what the results would be if I changed the time-series (that’s the name for any graph representation of data that spans a range in time? With that in mind, I set my Google Trends comparison to the past 90 days and not the past 30 days. Or here:

Libby Schaaf Cat 90 Days Google Trends
Libby Schaaf Cat 90 Days Google Trends

And we see a difference: Mayor Schaaf is ahead of Cat Brooks: 23 to 19, with Price at 10 and Ken Houston at 3. But look at the end date of November 1, 2018: it’s Cat Brooks 65, Libby Schaaf 39, Pamela Price 26, and Houston and Kamarooz at zero.

Schaaf Outspends Brooks By A Ton, So How Can Cat Lead Libby Here?

You may be wondering how Cat Brooks could lead Libby Schaaf in Google Trends, when the Mayor of Oakland has raised and spent around three times what the Oakland activist has raised? Well, that’s for the following reasons:

First, Cat Brooks is already known in Oakland because of her local work as an activist.

Second, because Brooks has used her media connections to generate stories about her run in major publications like Mother Jones and Black Enterprise and The Root.

Third, because she’s worked to contact everyone who’s anyone in Oakland and talk to them for advice: from former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, to former California State Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, to myself. Her endorsement list, once small, is now gargantuan and impressive.

Fourth, Libby has decided to load up on the accomplishments in the days prior to the election, but the trouble is, the focus has been strictly on old media. While that may work and has in past elections, media technology has created new areas for the distribution of message: sadly, Libby has barely used them.

Is Something Happening Here In Oakland’s Election?

So, what’s happening? Well the Buffalo Springfield song ays it best, and provides a great way to close out this post. I’ll pick up on it in my next one, today. Here is a song for our times, and one that really captures what’s happening with Cat Brooks’ rise in this election. You might say it’s corny, but I don’t think so:

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Stay tuned and be sure to check out my series on Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan and Salesforce Transit Center.

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