Multidimensional Scaling, Republican Presidential Candidates, and “a douchebag”

If you don’t want to read this whole thing, just check out the graph: Multidimensional Scaling: Republican Candidates – 8/16/2011

I was having a conversation with some friends today and someone mentioned that Rick Perry might have problems in the election because there were rumors he was gay.  So I went to google and typed in “Rick Perry is” and google kindly offered me the following auto-complete options: “gay”, “an idiot”, “a rino“, “evil”, “not a conservative”.  This got me thinking how this compared with the other candidates google auto-completes.  For instance, if you google “Mitt Romney is” you get suggestions like “a mormon” and ” an idiot” as well as three other suggestions.  I did this for all of the major candidates (sorry Thaddeus) and recorded the five google auto-complete suggestions.

Then I created a vector for each candidate based on the google auto-complete words.  Each candidate was an observation and each word was a variable.  The candidate would get a 5 if the word was first on their list, a 4 if it was second, and so on with a 0 if the word was not mentioned in their auto-complete.

I then used multidimensional scaling (the cmdscale function in R) to allow me to visually display the relative positions of the candidates to each other.  This all led to this graphic: Multidimensional Scaling: Republican Candidates – 8/16/2011.  The location of the circles is based on multidimensional scaling, the size of the circle is relative to their standings in a national poll taken from fivethirtyeight.com, and the top five google auto-completes are displayed in or near the appropriate circle.

Some thoughts:

  • Every single candidate has the term “an idiot” in either the first or second auto-complete term
  • 3 candidates were listed as “hot” (Palin. Bachmann, and Romney)
  • “stupid” was only used to describe women
  • Perry and Santorum (who has a much bigger google problem that anything I’ve listed here) had “gay” listed in their autocpmpletes and Pawlenty had “definitely not gay”
  • Bachman and Palins circles are nearly identical in size (11.7% ad 11.4%, respectively) and words (they share “an idiot”, “hot”, and “stupid”)
  • “a douchebag” appears in auto-completes for Santorum, Gingrich, and Pawlenty.  I imagine it will be hard to win with this word attached to your name. (John Kerry couldn’t do it.)
  • The only overwhelmingly positive google auto-complete was for Herman Cain whose fifth auto-complete option was “awesome”
It can’t be good for Perry that he is so close to Pawlenty and Santorum, but he does have a significant amount of support at this point.  I’ll be interested to see how these Google auto-completes changes over time and with the polls.
For information on how Google auto-complete works, click here.
Cheers.