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Summary:

Google’s Marissa Mayer, VP of search products & user experience, proposed Google Trends as a way of polling the populace, suggesting in a webcast yesterday that Trends could help predict who will win an election. Mayer showed how Google Trends accurately predicted George W. Bush’s dominance […]

Google’s Marissa Mayer, VP of search products & user experience, proposed Google Trends as a way of polling the populace, suggesting in a webcast yesterday that Trends could help predict who will win an election.

Mayer showed how Google Trends accurately predicted George W. Bush’s dominance over John Kerry in 2004 and Nicolas Sarkozy’s win in May of this year over Segolene Royal in the French presidential election. Current Google trend lines show Clinton beating Obama and Edwards, though I wonder how anti-Hillary sentiment plays into this, given it seems stronger than any anti-Barack or anti-fancy haircuts feeling.

Clinton v. Obama v. Edwards in Google Trends

On the webcast, Mayer also said that Google will eventually provide an API for Trends and allow download of the data, but didn’t commit to a time frame for either of those.

By Anne Zelenka

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  1. Seriously now, how can Google Trends predict the winner. I understand it measures the search query; but the interest could be a negative one and not positive. As I find out more, one might change the opinion and go the other way around. After all, wasn’t Osama one of the top 10 searches in 2001?

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  2. Aswath-

    I agree completely. Google’s approach misses the boat. It’s simply too much of a stretch to assume that anyone searching say for “Hillary Clinton” is ready to pull the level on her behalf come election day.

    Alternatively, Compete.com has created a very interesting method for tracking the popularity of candidates online based on the amount of time people spend across the candidates’ websites and related sites on myspace, youtube, flickr, etc. I found this on their blog…it’s very interesting:

    http://blog.compete.com/2007/11/15/facetime-president-contenders-myspace-facebook-youtube-meetup/

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  3. It’s just kind of a fun way to use Google Trends, not entirely serious. It’d be interesting to study, though, if it does have any predictive value. Of course people doing the searches might be doing so because they don’t like the candidate — that’s why I pointed out the issue with anti-Clinton sentiment.

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  4. Hmm, so who’s going to win the presidential race? I threw in the top 4 candidates, and then the dark horse (Ron Paul). It’s funny to see that the amount of searches (aka interest) are marked by the lowest news reference volume. Sad, actually.

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=rudy+giuliani%2C+mitt+romney%2C+hillary+clinton%2C+barack+obama%2C+ron+paul&ctab=0&geo=US&geor=all&date=ytd&sort=0

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  5. What about the other side (the Republicans)? Let’s see what Google Trends suggests:

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=huckabee%2C+%22ron+paul%22%2C+%22giuliani%22%2C+%22romney%22

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  6. Finding “predictions” after the fact is always so easy. Give me a break.

    Maybe Marissa Mayer wants to wager a bet on this? Come on Om, take her on!

    :)

    Had another thought: maybe Google can actually predict their own share price: http://www.google.com/trends?q=google%2C+microsoft%2C+apple&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0

    Well, maybe not

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  7. Great post i agree Google trends is a great tool to predict and view reality of things.
    Unfortunately great tools need thinking minds, to feed them with none bias information.
    Lets take a closer look; you made search for “Hillary Clinton” (thats good since most people would mistake and input “Clinton” a name shes shares with the most Popular man in the world, her husband ex president Bill Clinton.
    For The other candidate you entered “Barack Obama” most people don’t search for Barack since well they have no idea about his first name.
    If you run this query you will clearly see who the winner really is ,
    http://www.google.com/trends?q=%22hillary+clinton%22%2C+%22obama%22&ctab=0&geo=US&geor=all&date=all&sort=0

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  8. Folks – does anyone know if Google Trends does “sentiment” analysis?

    Thanks,

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  9. @Josh Treadwell: I think the interest in Ron Paul compared to the others is fascinating. Too bad it won’t equate to votes. Still, it’s encouraging to see people thinking outside the 2-party box.

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  10. for a french reader looks almost incredible that the sarko sego fight is in the radar of gigaom…

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