The Portland campaign rally for Donald Trump in which Gov. Paul LePage played a supporting role ranked among the nation’s most searched topics on Thursday, according to data from Google Trends.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, while hundreds of supporters were waiting for Trump to appear at the Westin Harborview hotel ballroom, the related search terms “Donald Trump, Maine, Paul LePage” briefly reached No. 3 among Google’s most searched topics. Three other Trump-related search terms rounded out the top five, including searches related to former Gov. Mitt Romney’s criticisms of Trump and searches about Trump University, the defunct school for real estate investors that is currently the subject of a lawsuit from former students.

Google’s data also indicated that 158 news outlets had published articles about Trump’s Portland visit and endorsement from Gov. LePage since noon on Tuesday.


The last time Maine and Gov. LePage broke into Google’s top search topics was in January, when the governor made comments about drug dealers impregnating “a young white girl.”

But Google’s data indicates that Trump’s more recognizable name has helped attract much more search traffic about Thursday’s Portland rally than the governor’s comments did in January.

In Maine alone, Google users have searched for “Donald Trump” roughly 10 times more than they searched for “Paul LePage” in the week leading up to Thursday’s rally.

Trump’s name also dominates searches when compared to the other presidential candidates from both parties. Only Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose local search volume briefly exceeded Trump’s during a Wednesday campaign rally in Portland, has come close to Trump’s search popularity in the days leading up to the Maine caucuses.

Joseph DiGrazia, a research fellow at the Neukom Institute at Dartmouth College, has conducted sociological research using Google search data and says that the search volumes associated with a candidate’s name do seem to be correlated with the candidate’s performance in the primaries. But, he cautions, there are often cases where search interest isn’t indicative of support – for instance, if a candidate is embroiled in a scandal.

“The searches are revealing, but I don’t think you can look at them as a simple reflection of popularity,” DiGrazia said.

Mainers' Google search interest in the top presidential candidates during the period before and after Maine's caucuses on March 5 and March 6.

Mainers’ Google search interest in the top presidential candidates during the period before and after Maine’s caucuses on March 5 (for Republicans) and March 6 (for Democrats). Searches for “Donald Trump” spiked on March 3, when the candidate appeared in Portland for a rally, while searches for “Bernie Sanders” spiked for the crowded Democratic caucuses on March 6.