Google Brags That Trends is a Predictor of Elections, and I’m Unconvinced (With Evidence)

And a good morning to my three(ish) remaining readers!  The blogging urge has come back, and here I am.  As George Costanza once said, “I’m back, baby!”

I came across an interesting post yesterday written by GigaOM’s Anne Zelenka, entitled “Google Trends Predicts Hillary as Dem Nominee.”  The basic gist of it is that on a Tuesday webcast, Google’s Marissa Mayer, VP of search products and user experience, “proposed  Google Trends as a way of polling the populace,” and can help predict who will win elections.  This apparently happened in 2004, when Google Trends “accurately predicted” Dubya’s win over Kerry, as well as last year, when Nicolas Sarkozy defeated Segolene Royal in the French presidential election.

This year, according to Google Trends, Hillary will be the nominee:


I’m not so convinced.  These correlations seem fairly spurious (that’s a fancy sociology word for “coincidence”), and I think it’s fairly irresponsible “cherry picking” of Google Trends data.

For instance, will Ron Paul win the GOP nomination?  Highly unlikely.  But Google Trends seems to think so:


Did Howard Dean win in 2004? (Note, the Kerry and Edwards spikes happened post-Iowa caucuses).  No, but Google Trends says otherwise:


Now, I know what you’re thinking — Ron Paul and Howard Dean are Internet celebrities, so they might be outliers. Not the case. For instance, here’s the 2006 Rick Santorum/Bob Casey Google Trend:


I think this last one is the perfect example.  Santorum had the name recognition, the “experience,” as well as all of the vigorous opposition that Hillary currently has.  But he didn’t win, at all, much to the chagrin of his children:


Why do I love that picture so much?  Is it the crying, or the strange familial parallel to “Father Knows Best” and/or the Amish?  I wonder if this makes me a bad person…

Anyway, point being — these are not cherry-picked results from me, but rather the first three searches I did.  Seems to me like Google wants to inflate its importance in the electoral process, no?

~ by Brad Levinson on December 6, 2007.

One Response to “Google Brags That Trends is a Predictor of Elections, and I’m Unconvinced (With Evidence)”

  1. […] Andrew Sullivan: One Way To Look At The Election: Andrew Sullivan takes a similar look at Google Trends, Ron Paul and Hillary […]

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