Reviewing the Clickstream: Why Gingrich Won South Carolina

Newt Gingrich

Image from: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock

A retrospective on the clickstream data pertaining to my previous South Carolina prediction reveals the impact of important events occurring very close to the South Carolina primary that would have suggested a “W” for Newt Gingrich in that contest.

Compete’s analysis of the South Carolina primary went to press based on data from 12/25/2011 – 1/14/2012 and based on that data Mitt was very clearly getting the most attention online. If we do the same analysis of the data through January 21st however, we observe several key trends related to news breaking that week that would have otherwise suggested a Gingrich win.

For example, in the week beginning January 15th the question of Mitt’s taxes actually became an issue and that proved to be a serious problem for South Carolinians. Newt didn’t pull any punches in the debates either and he received positive responses from the audiences which likely was an indication of how he was being received in living rooms across the Palmetto State. When looking at the most searched phrases that include the candidate’s names for the week 1/15 – 1/21, it becomes clear what issues were important in the days leading up to that primary.

Searched Phrases that Include the Candidate’s Names

As you can see above, Mitt Romney’s tax issue did rank high among Americans searching online during the week of the South Carolina debates, but more interesting is the popularity of Newt Gingrich’s “open-marriage” issue. Though, six of the top ten searches including the term “gingrich” referenced Newt’s marital situation, he still prevailed in South Carolina that week. The consensus seems to be that he handled that issue better than Romney handled his tax issue, but then again maybe it was that endorsement from Chuck Norris that put Newt over the top in South Carolina…

When looking at the online traffic to each of the candidates’ official websites that week though, it is clear that Newt pulls ahead of Romney and had the same analysis been done with data closer to the date of the primary, “a sure-win for Mitt” would not have been the prediction.

Each Candidate's Share of Online Interest Among South Carolinians

It is clear in the chart above that Newt surged in the final week of campaigning to pull out a win in South Carolina, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can sustain the momentum heading into Florida and beyond.

*Throughout the 2012 Republican Primaries, I will be using Compete’s 2,000,000+ person  panel to examine the weekly unique visitor (UV) traffic to each of the Republican primary candidate’s official campaign websites, campaign donation pages and official Facebook pages. I will conduct analysis at the county, state and national level to derive insights about the performance of candidates and offer predictions based on these trends in our sample data. In some instances (ie. At the county level) sample sizes may be low, but the data points are still interesting for directional analysis.

About Nathan Kollett:
Nathan Kollett is an Analyst in the Technology & Entertainment vertical at Compete. Nathan is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and earned his B.A. in Economics with a minor in Mathematics and Statistics. You can follow him on Twitter at @nathankollett and connect with him on on Linkedin