Americans Vote One T-Shirt and Bumper Sticker at a Time — And Here Are the Early Results

The sale and creation of bumper stickers, T-shirts, mugs, buttons and other political gear may be an indication of which candidates Americans like the most — better, in fact, than some of the primaries.

Consider this: The Republican winner of the Iowa Caucus race won by only eight votes. Mitt Romney received 24.55 percent of the total, while former Senator Rick Santorum took home 24.54 percent — a very narrow victory.

In the New Hampshire primary last week, Mitt Romney also won, this time by a larger margin.

But on Zazzle, where customers get to design customized products and sell them on its marketplace, U.S. voters are voting with their pocketbooks.

For example, interest in Rick Santorum exploded in January. The number of people searching for his apparel and other merchandise is already five times greater than it was during the entire month of December.

Some of his popular apparel includes a “Rick Santorum has a raging clue,” T-shirt, and the more straightforward “Rick Santorum 2012″ coffee mug.

Meanwhile, searches for Mitt Romney’s products are only three times higher over the same time period. A popular button for Romney declares. “Mitt is Legit.”

President Barack Obama has a little more diversity of products on offer, probably because he’s been in the spotlight for longer. There’s the regular assortment of T-shirts and pins, of course, and also mouse pads, iPhone covers, skateboard art and ties.

Not all of the gear is always positive; some items might reflect how much someone dislikes a candidate.

Every year, the Iowa caucus is used to gauge which candidates U.S. voters prefer at the time, even if the outcome does not result in the selection of a national delegate.

Similarly, Redwood City, Calif.-based Zazzle believes it has a big enough forum to conduct a meaningful poll of its own. Tomorrow, the company will kick off a poll that will analyze design and purchasing behavior up until the day before Super Tuesday, which falls on March 6 this election year.

In the past, Zazzle has often been used by Americans to cast their vote. On the site, more than 2.5 million custom political designs, and one million political clothing items have been sold to date.

“Whereas Twitter and Facebook reflect consumer opinions through text, sites like Zazzle are where the physical manifestation of ideas and opinions take place. This has been an accurate form of pre-determining political stories since the 2008 election,” said Josh Neuman, Zazzle’s head of political merchandising and analyses, in a statement.

For instance, the year before Barack Obama took office in 2008, 21,099 items Obama-related items were created on Zazzle, 73 percent percent of which were positive.

The final poll won’t be unveiled until March, but in the meantime, here are some other recent trends Zazzle has witnessed:

  • Interest in Santorum has exploded. The number of people searching for Santorum merchandise in January is already five times greater than during the whole month of December.
  • Romney is seeing three times as much traffic.
  • In January, there’s been a dramatic surge in merchandise sales for Ron Paul, who currently outsells Obama by nearly three times.
  • Obama merchandise continues to be a top seller, but 60 percent of the items are anti-Obama themed.
  • People are still buying merchandise for dropped-out candidates, including Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. The sales for either of these candidates are higher than those for Gary Johnson, who is still in the race.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work