Sunday, January 6, 2019

Who owns the Government Shutdown? The potential Crimson Fallout after the Blue Wave

Republican elephant and Democrat donkey over a cracked wall
Cracks are developing in President Trump's border wall strategy

As the United States limps through the longest government shutdown in the nation's history and reels from the increasingly grave, lasting negative impact on its many innocent citizens and federal employees, President Donald Trump has thus far stubbornly insisted that his demands for more than $5.7 billion of American tax payer money to fund the border wall be met, despite his grandiose campaign promise of being able to stick the bill on Mexico instead. The Democrats have no less been steadfastly holding their ground under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer.

Yet when the dust settles down, one lingering question that is bound to remain in everybody's mind is: Who will pay the political price of such willful negligence?

Do Americans believe that the damage to the country is all due to the Republicans and President Trump's self-inflicted wounds or are the Democrats equally culpable?

The Psychology of Word Associations

Word associations have long been thought to reveal a subject's subconscious state of mind. Following this trend of thought, it is possible to guess what Americans are thinking based on how they are doing their web searches related to this topic.

In 2006, Google launched a service that analyzes the popularity of search terms over a period of time: Google Trends.

Although the actual counts of searches are not revealed, a derived index (pegged at 100) based off the maximum number of search requests during a user defined period can be displayed. Every other point within the time series is calculated as a percentage relative to the period's maximum value,

Upon running a comparative search of the terms "Trump Shutdown" or "Republican Shutdown" versus "Democrat Shutdown" starting on December 15th 2018, one week before the government shutdown began on December 22nd 2018 to today, searches for the words "Trump Shutdown" vastly overwhelm searches for the words "Democrat Shutdown" by a ratio of more than 90 to 1 in all 50 states. This could mean that one can garner with reasonable accuracy, insight on public perception of the the government shutdown; indicating that every time someone initiates a keyword search and begins typing, their fingers are physically expressing that President Trump owns and/or is the root cause of the shutdown.

Google trends chart of interest over time
Google Trends (December 22nd 2018 to January 25th 2019) - Interest Over Time

Even in the traditionally red states as shown in the graphic below, Trump has consistently been associated with the shutdown more than 90% of the time as opposed to the Democrats throughout the sample period.

Google trends map comparing breakdown by region
Google Trends (December 22nd 2018 to January 25th 2019) - Compared Breakdown By Region

A Crimson Fallout in the making?

While the writing on the wall (in a not so subtle reference to border security) may not be set in stone at this point, Trump seems to have inextricably tied his name to the government shutdown and this more likely than not, raises dark clouds for him and the future of the Republicans who blindly stand by him. It is highly doubtful that even the master of alternative facts can manipulate the narrative to avoid the ensuing crimson political fallout this time.

Update: The cost of the border wall has been edited to reflect its increase in costs. The shutdown eclipsed the previous record of 21 days as of January 12th 2019. Data visualizations have been updated to include the phrase "Republican Shutdown", and reflect the end of the shutdown on January 25th 2019.


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