Data Points: Political Amnesia

For all the money candidates spend to become elected president, their online presences aren't very memorable


What do people look at when they visit the websites of presidential candidates, and do they actually remember anything they see? In December, EyeTrackShop asked people to look at the sites of the then-eight major candidates for 10 seconds each while it followed their gaze via Web camera. Afterwards, respondents were asked which candidates they remembered just seeing. (They could pick from the correct eight plus five other candidates.) Respondents were also asked to pick the candidate they’d vote for, based on the attractiveness of the site. Among the key findings:

Stay on message. Barack Obama’s and Michele Bachmann’s campaign sites were the ones most people remembered seeing (77 percent and 80 percent, respectively). Obama benefitted from being the sitting president and only Democrat in the field, but people also lingered on his campaign positions. Not that it’ll help them now, but high-scorers Bachmann and Cain also featured strong messages.

Niceness counts. Excluding those campaign sites, fewer than 5 out of 10 respondents even remembered the candidate they saw 1 minute ago. Those with warm smiles tended to score higher, while viewers didn’t seem to care for sourpusses (Rick Perry, Mitt Romney). The candidates can only wish their missteps were as forgettable.

Infographic: Carlos Monteiro