For two years and four months now, Irregular Times has been tracking one measure of strength of 2008 contenders that the media doesn’t touch. Rather than track public opinion polls of citizens or people deemed “likely voters” through econometric models, we’re looking at a more simple but possibly more important measure: the number of bumper stickers, campaign buttons, posters and t-shirts that we sell in support for each of those Democrats. Enter a Democratic contender’s name followed by the words “bumper sticker” into a google search, and (at least as of today) you’ll likely find one of our web pages as the number one search result, meaning that we are probably grabbing a fair share of those looking to support a candidate in a committed and public way, by laying down cash for the privilege of walking or driving around town with a campaign sticker, button, or shirt. That’s the kind of committed, visible support campaigns can really depend on when it comes to generating donations and votes.
We’ve recently accelerated our reporting schedule for this tracking statistic, adding quick updates every week to the more detailed updates every month. These weekly posts show trends over the previous six weeks, focusing on the five most popular candidates across that time. Here is this week’s update, covering the period from January 28 to March 10, 2007 for the top 5 sharegetters during that period:
But let’s scale down from the past six weeks to just this past week. How does the race among these five look now?
Al Gore’s win in the Academy Awards for Best Documentary gave him a real pop up last week, but that bump looks to be fleeting as Hillary Clinton muscles her way back (barely) to second place over Gore. While Barack Obama gained a bit of share at Gore’s expense, he spent a second week below the 50% Rock Star share of sales that he’d attained last month. Obama may be the favorite of those making a committed public stand, but he looks fallible and mortal now. Perhaps the more time that the public spends getting acquainted with Senator Obama, the more they realize he’s not some second coming of Jesus here to offer redemption for all American political sin, but nothing less or more than a skilled person with some interesting ideas, some charisma, and a hefty use of the word “hope.” The next few months will be a test of Obama’s political character, as Americans decide whether they like the mortal as much as they adored the media God. And look, down toward the bottom of the graph. That’s a joint purple-yellow line indicating the paired ascent of John Edwards and Bill Richardson. They still are struggling at below a 10% share, but if they keep making this kind of progress consistently they may be well poised to take the lead..
As our graph shows, weekly shares for the Democratic presidential contenders has a consistent ordering, but within that ordering is volatile in terms of share. That’s not because of the effect of low numbers of sales — we’re seeing many hundreds of those every week. Rather, orders for candidates seem to follow events in the news (say hello to An Inconvenient Gore). Does this mean that even the committed level of support represented by purchases of campaign gear is still wobbly? Candidates waiting to have their own surges may be heartened by that thought. Look for another update next week to see how the latest news affects the public’s choices for committed support.