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While much of the UK media has been focusing on the party leaders’ TV debates, quite of few of the 46.6m Brits who have online access have used Google Search to make their minds up.
The UK election is a great case study of how TV drives search; people are watching TV and searching on Google, often at the same time.
So, search data can provide a fascinating insight into the mood and voting intentions of the British public.
The first place you can see this keyword data is the regular Google search box, thanks to the Keyword Suggestion feature.
For example, if I search on the keywords 'Gordon Brown' I get these suggestions, which doesn't make great reading for the Labour leader:
It looks like Gordon Brown Estate Agents have been getting a lot of free publicity. Depending on the results of the election, having a business with David Cameron or Nick Clegg may be a good move...
To go a little deeper we can use Google’s Free Insights for search tool, which can give us a look into how Brown, Cameron, Clegg and their respective parties are performing.
So, we can compare search queries for Conservative Party, Labour Party and Liberal Democrats:
The numbers on the graph reflect how many searches were searched where the keyword queries contained Conservative Party or Labour Party or Liberal Democrats.
The searches are from the last 30 days. The numbers represent normalized data and are presented on a scale from 0-100. The numbers next to the search terms above the graph represent averages for each line on the graph.
We can see clearly the impact of the first TV debate on Thursday 15th April and the second debate on 22nd April: these debates have driven a huge amount of searches for the Liberal Democrats.
If I compare searches for David Cameron with Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg the effect of the TV debates is much clearer:
So what about using Google Insights for Search to look at the issues?
If I take the Keywords Iraq + Afghanistan, NHS, Tax, Education, Economy we get:
We can see that the NHS and tax are the two most searched topics, while the economy is the least popular on terms of search volumes.The tool also allows us to see where in the UK the searches came from.
There is another tool that can give an insight into what the electorate are thinking, Google’s Trends Tool tracks the latest search trends.
This is a snapshot on 29th April - the day after Gordon Brown’s disparaged 66-year-old Gillian Duffy as a 'bigoted woman'.
Finally, if we go back to google.com - we can see what the latest topics are on blog pages. If I search on Gordon Brown on Google.co.uk:
And then click on show options at the top of the results:
If I select Blogs and Past hour from the left hand menu panel - we see Blogs on the subject of Gordon Brown that have been indexed in the past hour:
A week is a long time in politics, and Google’s tools make it much easier to keep up with what people are thinking and searching on.
Do the keywords that people type into a search engine lead to a vote? I for one will be keeping a close eye on Google’s tools in the run up to 6th May to see if they are a more accurate indicator of voting intention than the opinion polls.