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Here’s How Well Search Engines Predicted Super Tuesday

Mar 02, 2016

Increasingly, we are what we search.

As primary and caucus results trickled in around the country on Tuesday night, Google and Microsoft Bing had already picked their own winners based on how people search the Internet. While the search engines got the general gist of Super Tuesday voting right, they weren't quite perfect when it came to knowing exactly how things shake out behind the voting curtain.

Microsoft's (msft) Bing search engine used a mix of search data, polling, and predictions to pick out big winners, while Google Trends (googl) tracked search interest in candidates in real time.

But both Bing and Google over-estimated the appeal of frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Bing's tool missed that Republican Ted Cruz would win in Oklahoma and Alaska and didn't predict Marco Rubio would get Minnesota.

Similarly, the tool called Clinton's sweep of the seven southern states that were voting, but didn't guess Bernie Sanders would win Colorado, Minnesota, or Oklahoma.

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That's a little worse than the search engine crystal ball has fared so far this election cycle: Before Tuesday, Bing had correctly predicted seven of the eight primary and caucus voting states, as CNET reports.

But researchers like psychologist Robert Epstein say that search engine results can have a lot of sway when it comes to certain kinds of voter opinions and can change the way a searcher sees a candidate for the better. Epstein found more positive search results can shift undecided voter opinions by 20% or more.

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Still, based on Super Tuesday returns, it seems search engines don't know all our secrets. Not yet, anyway.

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