Google released its list of the top 10 politicians who were most searched by Americans in 2010, and the results reflect the ups and downs of an important election year.
“We aggregate billions of searches that were done over the year to try to get an indication to get what the United States was interested in the past 12 months,” said a spokesman for Google of the Zeitgeist 2010. “The lists help better identify what’s new, what’s interesting, what people are more curious about in 2010.”
The Google lists are for the “fastest-rising” search terms for the year, as opposed to the most popular, to give a better indicator of search trends. For example, Barack Obama was searched for a lot in both 2009 and 2010, so he’s not new to Americans and not considered “fastest-rising.”
On the other hand, three of the Tea Party favorites in the Midterm Elections were on the top 10 list of fastest-rising people in politics. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), who went from an unknown in 2009 to winning the governorship of South Carolina, tops the list. Google searches for Haley started to rise sharply in May after Sarah Palin endorsed her, and the searches peaked in June when she won the run-off election.
Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had never run for public office before winning the Kentucky Senate race, was No. 4 on the list. The searches for Paul peaked first in May when he won the GOP primary, then again after his win in November.
Coming in at No. 5, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) captured public attention as the upset winner over Charlie Crist for the Florida Senate seat. Largely unknown outside Florida last year, the Hispanic Republican became a national phenomenon as the race tightened. Google searches for Rubio made one huge spike on November 2 because of his emotional and memorable election victory speech.
Other political figures made the fastest-rising list during high-profile elections in 2010. The former CEO of eBay Meg Whitman (R-Calif.), who lost an expensive and rough race for California Governor, was No. 2 of fastest-rising searches. The Google searches for Whitman were very high for the three months before the election.
The other high-profile California race, incumbent Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina for Senate, put Boxer at No. 8 on the list. The searches for Boxer peaked in June when the race with Fiorina tightened, and spiked again in late October when she was predicted to win re-election.
Scott Brown (R-Mass.) was the No. 3 most searched because of his surprising win in January to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat after Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) died. Brown’s victory in the special election made him the first Republican elected to the Senate from Massachusetts in almost 40 years. After he was sworn into the Senate in February, Google searches for Brown dropped off for the rest of the year.
Incoming Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was No. 6 on the list because he took on a much higher profile in Congress this year. Ryan was the primary spokesman for House Republicans in 2010 on deficit spending, health care and taxes. Ryan made a big splash in February when he blasted the cost of ObamaCare at the White House Health Care summit. Searches for Ryan peaked even higher in March after he released his “Roadmap for America’s Future.”
John Edwards (D-N.C.), the disgraced former presidential candidate, made the list at No. 9. The Google searches for Edwards spiked in January after he finally admitted to being the father of Rielle Hunter’s child, his former aide Andrew Hunter wrote a tell-all book about the affair, and his now-deceased wife Elizabeth filed for legal separation. Searches for Edwards spiked again in March when his mistress Hunter did media interviews about their affair.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela was No. 7 on the fastest-rising list for 2010 due to the search hikes in July when he skipped the World Cup soccer matches. Mandela was also highly searched on Google when he turned 92 in July, and in August when the model Naomi Campbell said she gave blood diamonds to his charity.
Outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was No. 10 on the list of politicians who rose in Google searches this year. The biggest spike in Pelosi searches was on November 3, as it became clear that the Republican landslide in the midterm elections meant that she would lose control of the House. The second highest peak in Google searches for Pelosi was in March when the GOP launched its “Fire Pelosi” campaign.