Who Won the Second Republican Debate? According to Google Trends Data

republican debate google data

I’ve always enjoyed following politics, even if it gets frustrating at times. So I didn’t want to miss the second Republican presidential primary debate tonight.

Many news organizations do small-scale polls to figure out who won the debate. What if we could use big data instead? I turned to Google Trends to see what it would tell us.

Who Won the Second Republican Presidential Primary Debate?

Let’s compare the data at 2pm MT/before the debate:

search interest at 2pm

The line-up is:

  1. Donald Trump
  2. Vivek Ramaswamy
  3. Nikki Haley
  4. Ron DeSantis
  5. Chris Christie


Here’s how it changed at the end of the debate, 9pm MT:

republican debate google data

The new line-up is:

  1. Vivek Ramaswamy (up +1)
  2. Nikki Haley (up +1)
  3. Donald Trump (-2, who didn’t participate)
  4. Ron DeSantis (no change)
  5. Chris Christie (no change)


It looks like Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley carried the night!

The “interest over time” chart confirms this same line-up:

at the end of the debate


In a five-way match-up of the top contestants, Vivek Ramaswamy comes out on top in the “average” analysis (listed in the bar chart on the far left) and at the end of the debate. Nikki Haley comes out second again, with Ron DeSantis in third.

How does their overall interest compare to the man who didn’t take the stage?

over time with trump

In this matchup, Trump appears in purple. You can see that interest in him trumped just about everyone else on debate night. (Pun intended!)

How Did Each Candidate Fair By State?

The following chart shows which candidate had the most searches per state:

interest by state

Mr. Ramaswamy took the lead again for most of the map. The only state most interested in Ron DeSantis was his home state of Florida.

Interestingly, search interest in Nikki Haley led the most in three early primary states:

  1. Iowa
  2. New Hampshire
  3. South Carolina (also her home state)


What Do People Want to Know About the Candidates?

If you’re looking for intense policy research, look elsewhere. Search data indicates that primary voters are more interested in the candidates’ personal lives and mudslinging accusations than anything else.

The top three “breakout” topics for Mr. Ramaswamy were:

  1. how tall is ramaswamy
  2. vivek ramaswamy kids
  3. vivek ramaswamy companies


The top three breakout topics for Mrs. Haley were:

  1. nikki haley curtains
  2. nikki haley children
  3. is nikki haley married


The top three for Mr. DeSantis:

  1. ron desantis smile
  2. ron desantis navy seal
  3. ron desantis kids


Apparently, politicians’ kids are top of mind, as they were breakout topics for all three. Ron DeSantis’s plastic smile made the top of his list, and Nikki Haley’s curtain accusation was at the top of hers. Poor Vivek was singled out for being short – can a guy cut a break?

(What’s with the “Is Nikki Haley married?” question? Are some of the lonely men out there hoping they have a chance? Despite the fact her husband was mentioned by one of the moderators.)

Data and Methodology

The downloaded Google Trends data can be found in a spreadsheet here. This data was downloaded 45 minutes after the end of the debate.

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