Republicans are about to have their third presidential primary debate, but Google continues to bury their campaign websites in search results.
Google's search engine once again favored Biden in searches conducted by MRC Free Speech America one week prior to the third Republican presidential primary debate. MRC researchers broadly searched for “presidential campaign websites” as well as four additional searches specifying the party affiliation of even the third-party candidates. Google continued to bury Republican candidates’ websites if their websites showed up on the first page of results at all. Meanwhile, Google’s AI chatbot previously — and with clear bias — ranked the presidential candidates when asked, but following the release of an MRC study on Bard, it is now staying mum.
In a search for “republican presidential campaign websites,” Google did not produce a single Republican candidate’s website. Shockingly not even Donald Trump’s website appeared even though he is polling above 50 percent according to all major polls. The search did come up with results for Marianne Williamson – who is running as a Democrat – and recent Republican dropout Will Hurd - who ended his presidential bid nearly a month ago after weeks of polling at zero.
The campaign websites of Republican candidates Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott and Chris Christie were nowhere to be found on the first page of Google’s search results.
In an amusing twist, the first page of results did display a link to a Library of Congress page that referenced an archived version of Trump’s 2020 campaign website, but even the link referenced was dead.
It seems Google is joining the charge in creating hurdles for Trump. “Much like New York Attorney General Letitia James, Google appears to be doing everything it can to make sure Trump isn’t a recognized candidate for the 2024 presidential election,” said MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider.
Google had no problem retrieving incumbent President Joe Biden’s or Williamson’s websites in a search for “democrat presidential campaign websites,” as they appeared as the first and third results respectively. In fact, Williamson’s website somehow managed to appear on the first page of results for nearly every search, including a search for “independent presidential campaign websites.”
When MRC researchers searched for “independent presidential campaign websites” neither Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s website nor Cornel West’s website appeared on the first page of search results even though they are the only two running as independents. Similarly, Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver’s website did not appear in Google’s first page of search results when MRC researchers searched for “libertarian presidential campaign websites.”
In another query, MRC researchers searched Google without specifying party affiliation. Replicating the first MRC pre-debate Google search study, MRC researchers searched the innocuous terms “presidential campaign websites.” Google’s search engine produced Biden’s campaign website as the third search result along with Williamson’s campaign website, which came up as the fourth result. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) 2020 presidential campaign website came up as the eleventh result.
After twice hiding Kennedy’s campaign website, Google’s search engine finally let it through to the first page of results but only as the twenty-fourth result. DeSantis’s website similarly appeared in the search for “presidential campaign websites” for the first time since MRC began analyzing Google’s search. However, his website was buried as the tenth result.
The importance of where a search result appears on the first page of a Google search cannot be overstated. Not only is Google the go-to search engine for most people, holding a market share of nearly 92 percent worldwide, the first result is the most likely link to be clicked on, according to Brian Dean, a search engine optimization expert. In fact, less than one percent of users click on links that don’t appear on the first page of search results. Dean conducted a study analyzing how often users click on various rankings of Google search results. His blog, Backlinko, reported that “the #1 result in Google has a 10x higher [Click Through Rate] compared to the #10 result.” Astoundingly, less than one percent (.63%) of users click through to the second page of search results, underscoring the importance of positioning on the first page of search results. Other studies, like one conducted in 2020 by Sistrix, show similar results.
Google’s clear bias found in one of its most used products – search – carried over to its up-and-coming generative AI chatbot Bard in MRC’s previous pre-debate Bard study. But now it seems the chatbot has learned so to speak.
MRC researchers also tested Google’s AI chatbot Bard one week prior to the election, and it seems Google has caught on to its own bias. In a previous study, MRC Free Speech America asked the chatbot to “Rank the 2024 presidential candidates” both generally and by party affiliation. The AI chatbot’s response was disturbing. At the time, Bard excluded leading candidates or ranked candidates polling poorly higher than candidates polling well. When queried with the same prompt on Nov. 1, the chatbot refused to answer the question. “I’m a language model and don’t have the capacity to help with that,” Google’s AI responded. When further asked, “Why not?” the AI chatbot similarly responded: “I’m unable to help you with that, as I’m only a language model and don’t have the necessary information or abilities.”
For this report, MRC Free Speech America analyzed the Sept. 20 and Sept. 25 Google search results of “presidential campaign websites,” “republican presidential campaign websites,” “democrat presidential campaign websites,” “independent presidential campaign websites” and “third party presidential campaign websites.” MRC Free Speech America created an algorithm to automate this process in a clean environment. A “clean environment” allows for organic search to populate results without the influence of prior search history and tracking cookies.
MRC Free Speech America researchers searched the innocuous words “presidential campaign websites,” “republican presidential campaign websites,” “democrat presidential campaign websites,” “independent presidential campaign websites” and “third party presidential campaign websites” using the algorithm. To determine bias, our researchers looked at Google’s results and recorded the rank(s) of each candidate’s campaign website on the first page of results.
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