The 2016 US presidential election is almost exactly one year from today. With the race to the White House ramping up, we decided to start our own countdown. Take that Canada!
Since all of us at Jumpshot are data driven, we wondered if it would be possible to predict the next president by analyzing the voters online searches and the overall web traffic flow to each candidate’s websites. With the first round of the Democratic and Republican debates under our belts, it’s exciting to track what Americans search for and how they are clicking-through into candidate websites. We’ll be updating our data on a monthly basis until the 2016 presidential election concludes one year from now. As the race to the presidency accelerates, we’ll be able to determine the extent that search data and online behavior can accurately predict the electorate’s opinions and actions.
These days there are many different ways for voters to learn about and interact with candidates, with most routes leading back to the candidates’ websites. We analyzed searching and browsing behavior that led people to the candidate websites to provide predictions based on search trends, social media activity and press coverage. As it currently stands, it seems likely that we will have another Democrat in the Oval Office this time next year.
Snapshot of Our Predictions
Overall, the traffic to candidate websites displayed a 60/40 distribution of search versus direct and referral traffic, with candidates relying mostly on organic search traffic (averaging at 76 percent of the candidates’ search traffic). Bernie Sanders is in the lead for all traffic sources, with an average of more than 45 percent of the search, direct and referral traffic to the candidate websites. Second place goes to Hillary Clinton, with an average of 16 percent of the overall traffic from all sources. Donald Trump and Ben Carson are competing neck-to-neck for third place, with 11 percent of traffic to candidate websites. All in all, the Democratic Party enjoys roughly two thirds of the online traffic to candidate websites, indicating that they are in the lead for public interest and top of mind of American electorates.
We decided to focus our analysis on the top three candidates: Sanders, Clinton and Trump. Read on to learn about our findings!
Social Reigns Supreme
Through a Jumpshot Competitive Analysis report we found that a whopping 69 percent of the referral traffic to candidate websites comes from social media. Twitter is responsible for 27 percent of referral traffic, YouTube brings in 24 percent, while Reddit drives another 18 percent. This suggests that even though Obama was the first US president to take social media seriously, he will not be the last. It’s clear that a strong social media strategy is imperative to becoming POTUS.
Take it from Hillary Clinton, who dominates on Twitter – enjoying more than 43 percent of the Twitter referral traffic to the leading candidate websites. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders follow up in second and third place with 30 and 27 percent of the Twitter referrals, respectively.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 29, 2015
It’s interesting to note that Sanders has quite the following of Reddit and Tumblr users – 92 percent of Reddit and 91 percent of Tumblr traffic going to candidate websites go to Sander’s campaign site.
The Top Candidates According to News Publications
Based on our data, social media plays a larger role in driving people to candidates’ sites than traditional news outlets. Collectively, online news publications only drive about a quarter of the referral traffic to candidates’ sites. According to a recent CNN poll, Clinton had a lead over Sanders in the Democratic primary. However, when looking at the outgoing refferal traffic from CNN.com (one of the top 20 referral sites to candidate websites), we find that CNN referred almost twice the amount of unique visitors to Bernie Sander’s campaign site compared to those referred to Clinton’s. On the flip side, referral traffic from Fox News all went to the Republican candidate sites (none to democratic candidate sites) with Donald Trump driving 28 percent of the referred visitors.
Bottom line: Bernie Sanders has the highest amount of referral traffic, dominating with 58 percent of social traffic and 51 percent of news publication traffic. Sanders also has the highest number of pageviews from search across every candidate with nearly two times the average, indicating that his site is more engaging than the rest. Hillary Clinton enjoys the second highest amount of referral traffic, clocking in with 24 percent of social traffic (mostly due to Twitter) and 38 percent of publication traffic.
There are many ways to interpret traffic to candidate websites. Just because someone clicks onto a candidate’s site doesn’t mean they are planning on voting for them. They could simply be intrigued to learn more about their stance on certain issues before hitting the voting booth next November. However, one thing that’s certain is that solid social media strategy will increase candidate visibility. We’ll be tracking it all, so stay tuned for next month!