Speed Reads

2020 Democratic debates

Why Tulsi Gabbard’s post-debate Google spike should come with a grain of salt

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) seemingly won the Google search debate Wednesday night. That doesn't necessarily mean she'll see a spike in the polls.

Following Gabbard's appearance alongside nine other Democrats during the first primary debate, Google Trends reported that the Iraq veteran had become the most-searched candidate in a majority of states. She also won an apparent "instant poll" from Drudge Report — not that that means much of anything.

Gabbard was quick to tout the fact that she, along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), dominated Google searches after the debate. But seeing as Gabbard was a relative unknown going into Wednesday night, there's a strong chance viewers were just searching to learn more about a candidate they'd never heard of, especially after her spat with a stuttering Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) over who conducted the 9/11 terror attacks. There's no way of knowing whether those searchers were impressed with Gabbard or not — though it's hard to argue that rising search interest is a bad thing.

The Drudge Report poll, meanwhile, is downright "useless," as The Washington Post's Phillip Bump tweeted and commentators echoed. Drudge is a heavily conservative site whose readers will largely have no say in the Democratic primaries.

Fellow candidate Julián Castro's 2400% Google search spike during the debates should also be taken lightly. After all, it's easy to see growth when one's search numbers are relatively low to begin with.