Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fun with Google Trends

FiveThirtyEight.com recently did a post up on the search analytics of current Republican Presidential candidates by Google Trends, and compared candidates accordingly (spoiler: lots of people search Sarah Palin). It's a good article and I recommend you give it a read.

Seeing this, I decided to adapt 538's expose for Canadian uses, and thought I'd go about looking up on Google Trends our leaders over here in Canada, and see how they stacked up to one another. The results were interesting, but not surprising.

But first, a small explanatory note: how Google Trends' program works is fairly easy.

I entered in 5 names - the leaders of all five main parties here in Canada - starting from largest (Cons) to smallest (Greens). Google Trends then calculates the search traffic for each name, and depending on which name you choose (default is Harper), compares the rest of the names' search volume index (how many times it was searched) based on that person's average amount of searches in whatever time period you've chosen (default is 1 year). This means that you can't actually view how many people searches for these names. What it does is compare Harper's average volume (which is "1.00", because its the base line) to the others, and depending on how much search volume that person has received on Google, they'll get a score. For example, Elizabeth's May search volume is 0.34 compared to Harper's, meaning that her volume is about 34% of Harper's total volume. Neat, eh? You can't get specific numbers, but its very fun for comparitive purposes.

So, anyways, on to the results!
Putting in the names of the five party leaders, according to the past 12 months and on a worldwide setting, we can see that Mr. Harper clearly has an advantage, just by the big blue line on the chart.

Harper is searched, on average, 5 times (multiplied!) more than Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton, 3 times more than Elizabeth May, and 96 times more than Gilles Duceppe. And remember, this is worldwide. We can go even more specific, but then we also lose some more data (and it can get questionable, but whatever).

In Canada, Harper is searched 4 times more than Ignatieff, 5 times more than Layton, 284 times Elizabeth May, and I have no clue about Duceppe, because he apparently does not have enough of a traffic ranking in Canada in the last 12 months to warrant a comparison!

Getting to specific regions, it's even more widely dispersed. Based on what results I could get, and all with Harper as a baseline, we get:

Ontario: 16 times more than Iggy; 9 times more than Layton; Lizzy May not big enough to matter
Rest: none searched enough to matter as compared to Harper.

Kind of slanted, don't you think? Understandable, given Harper's prominence and status, but still, highlights at least one of the many issues Liberals face: low interest. We can determine the amount of interest in Harper, though not the inclination behind it (people will tend to search for folks whether they love them or hate them), so let's not mistake this search advantage for popularity, but either way, I assume we're not doing too well. The same can be said for the other four parties as well.

We could, however, be doing better, because even in the last 12 months, former Prime Minister Paul Martin has been searched almost 2x more than Stephen Harper. Amazing, no? That's worldwide of course, but even here at home, Martin is being searched more than Ignatieff.

There's also some other neat things to look at, for instance, the leaders of Ontario's three main parties. Or how about just the federal party names, which shows almost complete reversal of simply the leader's names. Rae vs. Iggy, or the 2008 party leaders, or whatever else you want. It's an interesting, if telling, exercise.

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