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Searching for Sarah Palin

dfarsettas Icon Posted by Diane Farsetta

November 7th, 2008

As it updates marketers on the latest tactics and trends in their industry, Advertising Age often provides rather illuminating (if depressing) information for progressives. Case in point: the trade publication’s “fact pack” this week, about search engine marketing.

The booklet contains lists of the most popular recent online searches on various topics. Not surprisingly, one list is devoted to politics — in particular, the most common online searches in September 2008 that included the names of the major party U.S. presidential or vice-presidential candidates.

Most of the search terms are pretty obvious: “John McCain issues,” “Joe Biden voting record,” “Barack Obama website.” Some inadvertently serve as commentaries on the tone of the campaign, such as “Barack Obama Muslim,” which was the seventh most popular search containing the President-elect’s name.

Then there are the searches involving the Republican vice-presidential candidate.

Sarah Palin’s name alone was the most popular search by far, as it was for her running mate and Democratic opponents. But the third most common search was “Sarah Palin pictures,” followed by “Sarah Palin photos,” with “Sarah Palin hot photos” coming in at seven, “Sarah Palin affair” at eight and “Sarah Palin hot” at nine.

Funny, no one was looking for hot pictures of Joe Biden.

Added together, the five seemingly gender-specific Palin searches accounted for 5.4 percent of all search terms including her name in September.


“Trooper gate” or “Wasilla” or “Governor” didn’t even make Palin’s top ten list. (”Sarah Palin Tina Fey” came in at number five.)

It’s obvious to anyone paying minimal attention that women candidates are perceived and reported about differently than men. But one of every twenty online searches about a candidate being related to her appearance or sexuality? That’s worse than I would have guessed.

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