Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: Papers
- NEW VERSION: The Cost of
Racial Animus on a Black Presidential Candidate: Using Google Search Data to Find What Surveys Miss
Abstract: How can we know how much racial animus costs a black candidate if few will admit such socially unacceptable attitudes to surveys? I suggest a new proxy for an area's racial animus from a non-survey source: the percent of Google search queries that include racially charged language. I compare the proxy to Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 vote shares, controlling for the vote share of the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry. Previous research using a similar specification but survey proxies for racial attitudes yielded little evidence that racial attitudes affected Obama. An area's racially charged search rate, in contrast, is a robust negative predictor of Obama's vote share. Continuing racial animus in the United States appears to have cost Obama roughly four percentage points of the national popular vote in both 2008 and 2012, giving his opponent the equivalent of a home-state advantage nationally.
VERSION: Using Google Data To Predict Who Will
Abstract This paper argues that Google searches prior to an election can be used to predict turnout in different parts of the United States. For the 2008 and 2010 election, October search rates for â€śvote/voting,â€ť compared to four years earlier, explained 20-40 percent of state-level change in turnout rates. Out-of-sample predictions made prior to the 2012 election were strong. The data might prove useful in predicting candidate performance in midterm elections. If turnout is predicted to be high, the Democratic candidate can be expected to do better than the polls suggest. For presidential elections, the data can be useful in estimating the composition of the electorate, by comparing media market search rates to media market demographics. In the 2008 election, the Google data would have correctly predicted substantially increased African-American turnout. The out-of-sample 2012 demographics predictions using Google data were largely correct. It correctly forecast elevated Mormon turnout. It correctly forecast, contrary to some pollstersâ€™ predictions, that African-American, Hispanic, and youth turnout rates would remain at 2008, rather than 2004, levels.
- Encouraging Homeownership Through the Tax Code, Tax Notes, June 18, 2007, 1-19 (with William Gale and Jon Gruber)