Search Queries, Obama, McCain, Palin and Sex
Counting the occurrences of search terms enterred into major search engines can give hints to what people find interesting.
The plot below compares the fraction of queries containing the terms "McCain" and "Obama" since May, 2008. The search term "Obama" appears in about twice the queries as "McCain." Without digging further, there is not way to tell if this is favorable or negative interest.
Senator McCain’s campaign got more attention from Web surfers after the announcement of Governor Palin as his running mate. The plot below shows the fraction of query occurrences of the term "Palin" compared to "McCain for the same period.
It is difficult to get a sense of scale on the interest in either presidential candidate. Comparing to a term that many Internet searchers are interested–yes, sex–gives some sense of relative interest. Below I plotted the fraction of searches containing the term "Sex" against the fraction of searches containing "Obama."
Inexplicably, "sex" lost favor over the summer up until the Democratic convention, when the frequency of the "Obama" term peaked. Not that neither candidate ever come close to matching our interest in sex. What does this mean for our democracy?
The data is taken from click stream data for about 95K Web surfers each day. For each plot, I look for occurrences of the terms in all search queries each day. I don’t try to sort out all the misspellings or synonyms, so these results are most likely under counts. The data covers period well before the Democratic nominee was chosen and before the conventions. Numbers are reported as a fraction of the total search queries counted for each day (usually around 500K). Queries are representative of major search engines and shopping sites.