’Is Jeb Bush related to George W?’ and other things people googled about GOP presidential hopefuls

© Jonathan Ernst
In an election year, it’s only natural to seek out information about those vying for the presidency. But some of the top searches on candidates are not related to their policy positions or voting records – and may come as surprise.

What is Ben Carson famous for? What did Donald Trump say about Ted Cruz? Is Ted Cruz American? How old is John Kasich’s wife? What happened to Marco Rubio? Is Jeb Bush related to George W. Bush?

This is just a sample of the questions Americans googled about the Republican presidential hopefuls ahead of the ninth GOP presidential debate that took place in Greenville, South Carolina on Saturday.

Trump was the most popular of the top five searched candidates, with 46 percent of researchers looking him up, according to Google Trends. Cruz and Rubio tied for second, with 18 percent each.

When it came to finding out about the issues for each candidate, many of the search terms were the same: People googled the candidates’ stances on immigration, abortion, education and gun control, while health care or gay marriage tended to round out the top five searched topics ‒ except for Rubio. People wanted to know his position on climate change instead.

In South Carolina, home of the next presidential primary, people asked some rather intriguing questions about the candidates.

For instance, South Carolinians are a bit confused about Bush’s heritage.

“Is Jeb Bush related to George W. Bush?” was the top trending question in the state about the former Florida governor – who is, in fact, the younger brother of the former president. They did not, however, ask whether he was related to his father, former President George H. W. Bush.

They were also unclear about what Cruz looks like. To be fair, though, the Texas senator apparently reminds many Americans of someone… they just can’t figure out whom. “Who does Ted Cruz look like?” was the fourth most popular trending question about the candidate around the country.

Political parties also posed a problem for residents of the Palmetto State.

“Is Marco Rubio a Democrat?” they asked. “Is Ben Carson a Democrat?” and perhaps most intriguingly, “What political party is Jeb Bush?”

Nationally, information seekers seemed to understand that Bush, as part of that great Republican dynasty, would be a member of the GOP himself. However, that didn’t mean he caught a break in Americans’ Google searches: “What does Jeb Bush do?” was asked enough times for it to be the fourth trending question about him.

South Carolinians, like most Americans turning to Google this election cycle, want to know more about Kasich: Where he’s from, how tall he is and ‒ on the national level, at least ‒ what happened to his parents. Oh, yes, and how old his wife is. For the record, the Ohio governor is 63 and his height is a bit of a mystery, according to InsideGov. His parents were killed by a drunk driver, and his (second) wife is 11 years his junior.

© Reuters

Height was a popular question about several other GOP candidates as well, including Bush on the national level and Rubio on the state level.

But the question isn’t as random as it seems: The taller candidate in the general election tends to win the popular vote nationwide, according to a study published in the journal Leadership Quarterly in February 2013. However, the authors pointed out, taller candidates “were not significantly more likely to win the actual election.”

“Taller presidents were also more likely to be reelected,” they added.