WASHINGTON — Americans have expressed deep misgivings about both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton throughout the course of the presidential race. This week, their distaste is showing up in their search behavior.
Google Trends data indicates that the online searches for “write-in” surged over the last week by more than 2,800%, hitting a record high since 2004. The states with the highest rates of search are not battlegrounds, but Republican and Democratic strongholds.
As of Wednesday evening, three of the top market searches for “write-in” came in solidly Democratic states: Vermont, Delaware and New Jersey. Utah, a reliably red state that no Democrat has won since Lyndon B. Johnson; and Indiana, home to Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, round out the top five.
Related searches to “write-in,” according to Google Trends, largely focus on two politicians, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pence, the Indiana Republican. Searches for “is Bernie Sanders a write in candidate” spiked 2,750% in the last week while searches for “write in Mike Pence” spiked 2,400% in the last week.
Results though are different in the states. In Utah, for example, where a recent poll found Clinton and Trump tied with independent candidate Evan McMullin only four points back, the volume of searches for “Mitt Romney write in” grew by 4,000% in the last week.
Google Trends data don’t show what caused this trend, but the campaign trail was rocked on Friday after a 2005 video tape surfaced featuring Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a vulgar and sexually aggressive conversation about women. Trump later apologized for the remarks — first in a video and later during during Sunday night’s debate with Clinton — but since then has been rebuked and abandoned by members of his own party. Some called for Pence, Trump’s running mate, to lead the ticket instead.
Meanwhile, Clinton’s campaign has it’s own set of problems; WikiLeaks began releasing thousands of hacked emails from the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Some of the emails, including one that suggested a senior campaign aide had communicated with government officials about the release of her State Department emails, led to accusations of collusion from Trump and other Republicans.
With less than a month to go until Election Day, it’s not clear whether there will be continued high interest in write-in candidates or if searches will translate into action at the ballot box.
According to data from the Federal Election Commission, write-in votes accounted for 0.11% of the vote in 2012, which doesn’t sound like much, but was in fact the largest share in the last four presidential elections.