What We Googled About Obama in His First 100 Days

If you want to find out how President Obama did during the first 100 days of his new gig, you can turn to the pundits. You might look to past presidents like FDR or LBJ. But what did America think of the first 100 days? Thanks to the power of Google Insights, a tracking program that compiles search results into scalable data, we can find out exactly what Americans felt in every corner, on any given day. Forget the talking heads and read the 16 things the Internet can teach you about Obama's first 100 days. The president promised change, so you all deserve the final word.

1. Obama Should Thank Bobby Jindal.
Google Insights works by normalizing all data that America is searching onto a numerical scale, indexing keywords based on how many people are searching that term compared to all other searches. Over the last 100 days, the "Obama" search has fallen from an 86 to around a 27. Which means, roughly, that people have stopped caring as much. But there were two days that Obama spiked in the search results. The biggest was Feb. 25, the day after Obama's speech to the joint session of Congress. Presumably, those who missed the speech searched to find out what their president had to say—and, of course, to listen to Bobby Jindal's, uh, unpolished response. That makes total sense, given that the Internet is perfect for spreading two things: news and comedy. Combine the two and you have Obamafied search-engine gold.

2. No, Really. Don't Underestimate Comedy.
The second spike in Obama searches happened March 20. On that day, the search scored a 93 based on the myriad users who were bored at work and looking to laugh at the banter between the president and late-night host Jay Leno that had occurred the night before. On the same day, Michelle planted the White House vegetable garden, and the president released a tape where he speaks to the people of Iran. Both these things are significant and made airwaves, of course, but little can compare to the president telling Leno that his bowling is "like the Special Olympics or something." Now that's worth searching for.

3. Also, Don't Underestimate TV.
Aside from those two days, the other blips on the 100-day radar come directly after Obama's TV appearances. Directly after his first prime-time-TV press conference, there was a surge Feb. 10. The same thing happened March 25, one day after his second press conference. The president has received a lot of flak for insisting on lots of TV time—including daily press briefings by his staff. But apparently, that's exactly the kind of stuff most of Google-using America wants to read about.

4. Not in Virginia, Though.
It's not that surprising that states like Utah, Idaho and South Dakota—all of which have small populations that went decidedly for McCain—don't register too high on a state-by-state Obama search comparison. What is shocking is that Virginia, the state closest to the nation's capital, registered the lowest relative interest of any of the 50. There may be a logical explanation to this: many Google searches happen during the day, while people are at work. Of those Virginians that do care about Obama information, many of them presumably work in the District of Columbia, so the Virginia data could be marred by the fact that all the searches by those people actually happened in D.C.—which Google counts separately. That brings me to my next point ...

5. He's Preaching to the Choir.
There's a well-accepted theory that people like the news that appeals most to them. If anything, Google searches for Obama confirm that: the most active regions are: the District of Columbia, Maryland and New York. Those are closely followed by Biden's home state (Delaware) and the Obamas' territory (Illinois). In short, liberal hotbeds and places that have a close connection to the administration tend to care much more about what's going on, and keeping abreast of news, than places that didn't elect these people to lead the country. That explains why Utah, Idaho and South Dakota spend their time searching for other terms.

6. The Gentleman Effect.
While search patterns for the president remain pretty consistent with November's voting map, there's one search term that throws the data off: how individual regions address the man leading our country. Depending on whether you look up "Obama," "Barack Obama" or "President Obama," you get far different results. As I mentioned, the colloquial "Obama" is popular among the liberal states. Using his full name as a search term ("Barack Obama") was comparatively popular in other states: Mississippi, Delaware, South Carolina, Louisiana and Alabama. And when you search for "President Obama," Washington, D.C., rises back to the top, followed closely by Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Shying away from linguistics, I'll only say that perhaps this reflects a more polite upbringing, where first names and titles are used when conducting a Google search.

7. First 100 Days? Who Cares?
When White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs referred to this media celebration of the first 100 days as a "Hallmark holiday," he may have been right. As the benchmark has wound down this week, the term "first 100 days" has jumped a ton in Google search results. That said, the term still only registers in 10 states: Ohio, New York, Texas, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.

8. Michelle Obama May Be Popular, but Not Everywhere.
A recent Pew Survey found that the first lady is more popular than her husband. But there are some states, including Wyoming and North Dakota, which register a big fat goose egg for her name on Google Insights. Apparently, these regions could not care less about the first lady. At this point, you could probably rattle off a list in your head of the states where her name was a super search result: the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York and Georgia.

9. Repeat That to Yourself.
If you look up Jay Leno and Obama, you see similar East Coast elite patterns: New York, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia all won that search game. But who was fourth? Wisconsin. For all you Cheeseheads out there, does this have anything to do with the state's bowling obsession? You tell me.

10. Back to Michelle. Is She a Queen?
Not really. Well, maybe. Regardless, something funny happens when you search "Queen Michelle" or "Queen Obama" in the Google tracking software. Both search terms spike to first place between March 29 and April 4. I guess that's what happens when America is totally in love with her. Or more likely, when she made massive waves by hugging Britain's royal monarch. That event, as you well remember it, happened April 1.

11. Oh Yeah! The Stimulus Package ...
Even though Utah's highest increase in Obama searches involved stimulus money, that state wasn't a contender for leading the "Obama Stimulus Package" search. Instead, Kentucky, Alabama, Idaho and Michigan—all of which could especially use infrastructure money—were the states that had the highest rankings for stimulus-related Obama searching. Notably absent from the Top 10 list for this search were states that had high Obamacentric search results, including New York. In those regions, perhaps it's more about the man himself than the programs enacted in his 100 days. Or maybe they just don't need the stimulus money ...

12. Stimulus Money? No Thanks.
While the stimulus was a popular search in many states, it was notably absent in Alaska, Vermont, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. Populationwise, these are small, relatively remote, states that may be less concerned with public infrastructure projects. Any other guesses? Leave them in the comments.

13. In Fact, Maybe You Should Just Contact Your President.
That's the plan in Florida, Texas, California and New York—states where many Googled the hilarious terms: "e-mail President Obama." I can almost guarantee that didn't work out for them. Out on the West Coast, in Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and California, a more simple search term—"contact Obama"—registered as among the most popular. The Internet may have worked wonders in connecting voters to our future president, and this administration has agreed to be responsive. But good luck finding Obama's personal e-mail address.

14. Looks Like We've Got an 'Obama Deception' on Our Hands.
One of the fastest rising searches in regard to our president has been "Obama Deception," the title of a self-proclaimed "hard-hitting" documentary that "completely destroys the myth that Barack Obama is working for the best interests of the American people." Comparatively, this search was most popular in Oregon, Texas and Arizona. This tells us two things. First, every West Coast hippie must love a good conspiracy documentary. And second, there is such a thing as a sore loser, whether that is Bush (Texas) or McCain (Arizona). Right?

15. Don't Forget the Dog.
Well, actually, go ahead. Like Jay Leno, and other advanced Obama topics, the search "Obama Dog" was popular in all the places you might expect: D.C., New York and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, in many of the states that went for McCain, this search was hardly recognized. If you take anything from this, it's a small sign that people who voted for Obama care about all the intricacies of the first 100 days; meanwhile, those who didn't have moved on to other things.

16. Like What?
Well to be honest, over the last 100 days, our president leaves nary a blip in the nation's top Google searches, compared with weightier topics like "American Idol," Rihanna and Chris Brown, which led Google's rising searches. Even on the last of the 100 days, Twitter ranked No. 1. So when it comes to Google, what have we learned? One hundred days is nothing compared to 140 characters.

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