To take voters’ collective temperature, election watchers can rely on pre-election polls, exit polls and online polls — each of which has its limitations. But the Drudge Report, a mega-Internet news portal that served up a whopping 10 billion page views in the last year, polled perhaps the biggest sample of political partisans in America on Tuesday.
The results, as of 8:00 p.m. EST when the Iowa GOP caucus-goers began expressing their presidential preferences, showed Texas Rep. Ron Paul with a sizable lead both nationally and among Web surfers weighing in from Iowa-based computers.
Among Iowans, Paul attracted 33.6 percent of the vote. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum came in a surprising second with 20.9 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney‘s 20.5 percent — good enough for a disappointing third-place finish.
Drudge’s national numbers were similar, with Santorum and Romney swapping places.
Nationally, Paul collected 31.6 percent of the more than 528,000 Internet votes cast. Romney was second with 23.7 percent. Santorum took third with 17.4 percent. Gingrich had 12.3 percent support for fourth place.
From there, the numbers dropped off considerably. Perry had 5.4 percent. Bachmann had 3.7 percent. Former businessman Herman Cain, who withdrew from the race weeks ago, still collected 3.3 percent of the vote — even more than former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who only drew the support of 2.7 percent.
It should be noted that the Drudge Report’s measurements are entirely unscientific, and not representative of overall opinions in Iowa or anywhere else. And many Ron Paul supporters spent the late afternoon hours on Tuesday encouraging like-minded Web surfers to stuff the virtual ballot box for their chosen candidate.
There is also no way to know how many of Drudge’s poll participants are old enough to vote. In fact, the only thing the poll results show with any certainty is that Ron Paul supporters’ online cajoling has a smaller impact in Iowa as in other states.
But as a measurement of the candidates’ ability to inspire a groundswell of support among online news junkies, it sure is fun to watch.
David is The Daily Caller’s executive editor. Follow him on Twitter