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Archives: Whitman vs. Brown - 2010 CA Governor Race

Originally published in October 2010
Simon Nguyen

The 2010 California Governor Race between Meg Whitman and former governor Jerry Brown is unquestionably this year’s highest profile state election. Whoever wins the coveted governorship will be tasked with the difficult job of turning around a state that is facing huge problems. California has been plagued with monstrous levels of government debt, reduced competitiveness (as a result of strong-arm regulations), and a collapsing education system.

The 2010 California’s gubernatorial election between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman presents many intriguing contrasts. Meg Whitman is a successful businesswoman who has never run for public office until this year. Jerry Brown, on the other hand, is a lifelong public servant who has never had a job outside of law and politics. The dissimilarity of the two candidates does not end there, however. Whitman and Brown share radically different views on how to best deal with the budget crisis California is currently experiencing.

Meg Whitman, the former CEO and President of Ebay, plans to balance the budget by cutting state social programs and letting go a large number of state employees. She is also a strong believer in Reagan’s conservative policies of tax cuts and laissez faire economics. In contrast, Jerry Brown is expected to align with his party’s philosophy of social equality and big government. The Attorney General of California is generally seen as an ally of labor unions, who have supported his gubernatorial campaign.

Who will emerge as the winner of the 2010 Governor Race? Although recent polls have shown Jerry Brown to be sizably ahead of Meg Whitman, the outcome on Election Day may still surprise people. In economics, there is a political theory called Tiebout Choice. This theory claims that people reveal political preferences in their lifestyle choices and behavior. Since many people conduct web searches on topics of their interest including politics, we may be able to predict winners of elections by examining the search data. The following is my analysis of Google’s search trends data (for California region only).

Meg Whitman may not win the CA gubernatorial election on November 2, but she will at the very least earn the distinction of having been the target of more Internet search queries this election cycle than her opponent. Even when we omit the recent search spike generated by the Illegal-Maid controversy, average search traffic for information on Meg Whitman (from April-October) still outpaces that of Jerry Brown by 47%. This could be due to the fact that Whitman is a relative newcomer to politics, and people want to learn more about her.

Yet, the latest search trend (in October) still shows much higher search traffic for information on Meg Whitman than on Jerry Brown. With only a week till the election, this tells us that a lot of people are still not on Brown’s bandwagon just yet despite recent polling data that favor him. The late deciders are still weighing whether or not to take a chance on Whitman. Their final choices will likely decide the election. If Whitman wins this race, it will be by a few percentage points. If Brown wins, it will be by a landslide.

**Google Search Trends Data are freely available at Google Trends website. The analysis is based on my own interpretation of the trends data.

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