What is Google doing with its search results for Democratic 2020 presidential candidates?

What is Google doing with its search results for Democratic 2020 presidential candidates?
Beto O'Rourke, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris (Shutterstock / Wikimedia Commons)

So, on a whim I decided to Google a few of the top 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.


The results were… interesting. Depressing.

And extraordinarily inconsistent.

Now, Google “personalizes” its search results, so your mileage may vary, but it seems to me maybe people should be seeing the same information across the board, if we want “free and fair” elections.

It’s bad enough that Facebook has allowed micro-targeting of users to push ads from President Donald Trump’s campaign. Popular.info founder Judd Legum has done extensive research on this. “Facebook admits it ran hundreds of Trump campaign ads that violate Facebook rules,” he reported back in April. That was after his reporting found the Trump campaign had “produced hundreds of ads targeting women in practically every city in Texas.”

But back to Google.

In a search for Elizabeth Warren, I noticed a box on the first page of the search results. It was depressing.

Are these really the questions Americans are asking about the two-term Senator from Massachusetts?

What about her policies? Are Americans really more curious who Warren’s husband is than what she plans to do about health care costs or gun violence?

Next, I Googled Joe Biden.

Similar box, less questions, all of them disappointing.

What about legislation the former Senator from Delaware has sponsored? What did he do as Vice President?

Nope.

Is, “Has Joe Biden ever run for president” really what Americans what to know?

Next, Kamala Harris.

No box.

None.

Are Americans not Googling the California Democratic Senator? Doubtful. Why is she being treated differently in the Google search results, at least for me?

So I tried Bernie Sanders.

Again, similar, depressing results.

I moved on to Beto O’Rourke:

Seriously?

Finally, Pete Buttigig.

Just like Kamala Harris, no “People also ask” box.

Why?

Again, perhaps these results are just specific to Google’s results for me, but maybe not.

And regardless, why isn’t the format the same for all candidates?

Is this the best we can do?

No.

If you’re actually interested in learning about the 2020 presidential candidates, here are some better resources, most of which as a journalist I use regularly.

OnTheIssues – one of the absolute best and most comprehensive for political candidates’ longterm history.

Ballotpedia – a great resource for learning about state and federal races, they do a good job of keeping up with daily developments in the presidential campaigns too.

Want to get into the polling data? RealClearPolitics, which leans right in its reporting, does an excellent job of laying out the polling numbers.

FactCheck.org, which says it’s “a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.”

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