Google autocomplete, designed to help speed you along by guessing what you're looking for as you type a Google search, has some interesting thoughts on what people want to know about the 2012 presidential candidates. Autocomplete has been a perennial entertainer of the bored masses since its debut because its algorithm, which draws on your past history and the actual searches of other web users, can reveal a lot about the internet and the people using it. As Google notes, "All of the predicted queries that are shown in the drop-down list have been typed previously by Google users." We've all tried the trick of typing your first name and the verb "is" into Google to see what others think of people with your first name. So with that in mind, we conducted a little investigation into what Google thinks you want to know about the presidential candidates by typing "Is [candidate's name]" into the bar and seeing what questions Google suggests. We signed out of our account and deleted our browser history to make sure our own searches didn't cloud the results. The outcomes reveal plenty about those of us who turn to Google for vital information about a democratic contest . Here are the results:
The people turning to Google with questions about Romney are pretty interested in his religious associations, and they also show concern for his stance on abortion, an issue on which he's shifted his position over the years. So Mormonism and conservative credentials -- we're not exactly breaking news on the major questions the Republican base has about Romney's candidacy. Let's move on.
Pretty similar results to Romney. The Googled questions are again concerned with his religion and his position on abortion, meaning both front runners face similar questions about their conservatism. Indeed the last item, outright asking whether Gingrich is conservative, reflects the raging debate over whether Gingrich's record from the 1990s really qualifies him to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney among the race's front-runners.
Ouch. Google users have some weird questions for Rick Perry. You might be persuaded that Google users have a particular concern with Rick Perry's sexuality but, as you'll see, Google is concerned with a whole lot of people's sexuality. (Seriously, just typing the word "Is" into google supplies you with "Is Anderson Cooper gay?" Is that really the first question beginning with the word "is" that people have?) That second item about Perry being dumb, though, that's not awesome news for a candidate who'd rather you be asking Google if he's just ... forgetful.
You'd think the way Ron Paul's internet fans do such a good job patrolling comment boards, they'd have this taken care of, but Paul doesn't get particularly pleasant treatment from autocomplete either. People are turning to Google to check whether he's running at all, and they also wonder whether he's racist. We admit, we were expecting "Is Ron Paul being ignored by the media?"
All right, so the concern for Bachmann's physical attributes, while not a great reflection on our nation's standards for female politicians, is (good news for Bachmann) at least a question devoid of obvious criticism. But then Google users really let her have it. Among the rather childish insults thrown at her in the form of a question, we think the really damning item here is the last one. It's never, ever good if people using Google aren't quite sure whether you're even running for president...
... This is only Santorum's second biggest Google problem. Like Bachmann and Paul, he gets that damning question of whether he's even in the race. But unlike Bachmann, he gets it twice! Google came up with two ways to ask if Rick Santorum is even running for president!
They won't let you in the debates, Buddy, but we'll let you into our roundup, if only to show why you might not be polling high enough to get into the debates. Again, Google searchers are pretty concerned with whether you're even running, so concerned, it comes in twice before any other question about you gets posed.
Given Roemer's results, no surprises here for the former governor of New Mexico. But again with that fixation on whether a candidate is gay ...
While we're at, let's take a look at the guy these Republicans want to challenge. Gay rumors? Check. Muslim rumors? Check. Freemason rumors? Why not. (You'll recall, Google searchers also wondered if Romney was a freemason. The persistence of that question has us confused, though we're left wondering whether the community of those concerned with a candidate's freemasonry overlap much with those concerned about a candidate's gayness.)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.