NLS, Blue Virginia, RK Blog Traffic Indicate Low Netroots Interest in VA Governor's Race

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I've been thinking lately that it seems a bit quiet on the Virginia Democratic blogosphere, so I decided to check it out. I looked at Sitemeter traffic stats for Not Larry Sabato (I only have the last 12 months) and Blue Virginia - the only two large, Virginia Democratic blogs that have public Sitemeters. I also looked back at RK stats for 2006, 2007 and 2008 (unfortunately, I don't have good RK traffic stats for 2005). What I found is that, as you might expect, in the leadup to elections, traffic almost always increases. However, it varies widely by how interesting/exciting the election is. Here are some examples.

In the June 2006 Democratic primary (Webb vs. Miller), traffic at Raising Kaine nearly doubled from March (about 30,000 visits) to May (about 55,000 visits). In the fall of that year, traffic in October and November hit around 127,000 visits per month, approximately double what Raising Kaine was averaging over the summer (around 55,000-60,000 visits per month).

This was a true "off-off year" election in Virginia, with no statewide races, "only" General Assembly (House and Senate). Leading up to the June primaries that year, Raising Kaine traffic increased a bit (around 20%), from 50,000-55,000 monthly visits in January-March to 65,000-70,000 visits per month in April-May. In the fall, traffic increased from around 60,000 visits over the summer to 93,177 visits in October and 115,426 visits in November. That's a big increase from the baseline -- not quite a doubling but close. That's a lot, especially for an "off-off year" election!

This, of course, was the big one - a presidential election year. Not surprisingly, traffic at RK was high all year, but it really spiked during primaries and general elections. For instance, in February 2008 - the time of the Virginia Democratic presidential primary - RK traffic hit 140,114 visits, nearly double the 72,971 visits received in December 2007 (in January 2008, there were 93,569 visits). Over the summer of 2008, RK traffic averaged in the 90,000-visits-per-month range, as interest in the election remained high. Then, it spiked in the fall, to 127,732 visits in September, to 193,119 visits in October (more than double July traffic), and to about 150,000 visits in November (56% higher than August traffic).

A priori, based on the patterns seen in 2006, 2007 and 2008, I'd expect a big spike in traffic leading up to election days in this Virginia governor's election year. However, I didn't really find that. Leading up to the June primary, for instance, Blue Virginia went from 34,113 visits in April to 37,765 in May and 45,884 in June. That's about a 35% traffic increase from April to June; not bad, but nothing particularly exciting. Over at NLS, traffic went from 82,342 visits in April to 76,847 in May to 95,947 in June. That's about a 17% increase from April to June; again, not bad, but again nothing to get your heart racing.

Now, leading up to the November 3 general election, how's it going? Meh. For Blue Virginia, October (about 56,000 visits) looks like it will have increased about 41% over August (39,764 visits) and 29% over September (43,480 visits). For NLS, October (around 105,000 visits) looks about 3% higher than August (101,659 visits) and 20% over September (87,747 visits) traffic. That's nothing compared to 2008, of course, but it's also not much compared to 2006 or 2007 either.

In short, the Virginia Democratic netroots doesn't appear particularly enthused this year, at least not compared to the last three years. This trend appears to mirror the overall loss in intensity among Virginia Democratic voters more broadly, who appear to have "fallen asleep" to some extent now that George W. Bush is out of the White House and Democrats control Congress. Also, it appears that this governor's election simply isn't gathering much attention from activists; I don't have good stats for 2005, but distinctly recall a great deal more energy and traffic on the Democratic blogs four years ago compared to today.

P.S. I also got some stats from the Blue Commonwealth folks, just for comparison purposes, and they indicate no significant difference from the trends - relatively flat traffic leading up to this election - observed at NLS and Blue Virginia.