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What Google search says about big campaign issues

May 18, 2012 by Scott Bomboy


Who needs tracking polls when you have Google’s free, high-tech Insights search tool? A quick look at five hot-button issues shows some interesting trends heading into the fall presidential election.

Of course, Google, the company, has very little to say about the election as a matter of policy. (Google might serve up a few political ads to paying bidders, but it doesn’t have an editorial policy that would endorse any candidate).

But the company’s Insights for Search tool shows what people are searching for on Google, dating back to 2004. And because Google goes to great lengths to make sure search popularity can be fairly compared over time periods, we can see how “hot” topics have been for the past week, month, or any time period going back  to 2004.

We picked five broadest campaign topics that had a high level of interest and weeded out a few that were too general or too specific  (like “jobs,””same-sex marriage” and “health care”).

Here is how the recent trend looks for the five issues--gas prices, immigration, health insurance, gay marriage and employment--over the past 12 months:

Insights for Search takes the biggest traffic spike, among the five topics, and compares every other search to it.

Employment is constantly at the top of minds for Google searchers, especially during the work week. But the two stories with the biggest spikes were the passage of New York’s same-sex marriage law in June 2011 and President Barack Obama’s support of similar measures last week.

High gasoline prices saw a big spike in February, but they have also seen a steady drop in interest in the past month.

Two other issues – health insurance and immigration – have seen continued interest over the past 12 months.

So in Google’s scale of search interest, here is how the five topics rank over the past year:

  1. Employment: 80
  2. Immigration: 30
  3. Health Insurance: 29
  4. Gas Prices: 20
  5. Gay Marriage: 13

Of course, Google search isn’t a proxy for how people will vote in November, but with a huge sample group, it does show a constant interest in certain subjects.

For the past 30 days, the Obama announcement was the dominant search for a few days, while interest in gas prices was running on empty.

Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of Constitution Daily.

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