The sophisticated field of Internet analytics has a lot to offer the political world--with the important caveat that no one has much idea precisely how Internet activism will or won’t translate into votes.
In an attempt to measure regional support for different Republican presidential candidates, the site Compete.com recently did a state-by-state breakdown of the visitors to the websites of the three highest-polling candidates--Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain--plus possible contender Fred Thompson. By that rubric, Romney leads the pack with the most-viewed GOP candidate website in 18 states; Thompson came in second with 14.
While the analysts at Compete.com don’t claim that visits to a website necessarily translate into votes--that is the golden question, after all--looking at the maps side by side does suggest that there are differences in where the candidates draw their support among the online crowd. (It’s an important distinction. The Pew Internet and American Life Project has a recent report on who engages in online politics.) Mitt Romney drew big numbers from Utah, almost certainly because he is the only Mormon candidate, while former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was particularly clustered in the Northeast, for example.
But the real test, of course, comes once the primary results start rolling in and the dataphiles get a chance to look for correlations on an extremely local level between voting patterns and Web behavior.
Compete.com details its methodology for compiling these statistics here. --Chris Wilson