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: 

Google Suggestions

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:

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:

Carmeron, Brown & Clegg
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:

The Election Issues

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'.

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:
Search for Gordon Brown on Google

And then click on show options at the top of the results:

Click on Show Options at the top of the page

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:We see Blogs on the subject of Gordon Brown that have been indexed in 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.

Ian Howie

Published 4 May, 2010 by Ian Howie

Ian Howie is Chief Technology Officer at 1upDigital and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can also find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments (10)

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Mark Nunney

You've cut the sides of the images off and removed the all-important colour coding from the Insights graphs!

about 8 years ago

Ian Howie

Ian Howie, CTO at 1upDigital

It is the way the page is rendering the images. If you right click and download the images you'll the colour codes.

about 8 years ago

Mark Fleming

Mark Fleming, Digital Marketing Manager at Kuoni Travel


Great post. I too was was studying the parties and party leaders in Insights the other day and it is amazing to see what the television debates have done for the Lib Dems.

Not long to go now, be interesting to see how these search results change on the run-up to Thursday!

about 8 years ago

Ian Howie

Ian Howie, CTO at 1upDigital

Hi Mark, Check out the latest Insighs for Search: http://www.google.co.uk/insights/search/#q=David%20Cameron%2CGordon%20Brown%2CNick%20Clegg&geo=GB&date=today%201-m&cmpt=q Brown got loads of searches around his bigot comments - it really shows how events can drive search.

about 8 years ago

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

Interesting post Ian,

"search data can provide a fascinating insight into the mood and voting intentions of the British public."

I'm not sure that I understand how you can draw that conclusion. Surely the data that you are presenting can only tell us what SOME people typed into a search engine on particular days and therefore what information they were searching for.

That might (at a stretch) tell us what they were interested in, but I am not sure how you then determine what mood they were in or how this would reflect their voting intentions.

Also it only reflects a particular subset of the British public. I guess with further analysis it might be possible to tightly define the (small?) segment of the UK population that this actually represents.

Whilst this is interesting to a point, I think it is possibly concerning to overstate it's significance (not suggesting that you have one this). Similarly it would be wrong to take a social platform (such as Twitter) and suggest that that is representative of the mood or voting intentions of the British public (again not saying that you have done this either!). 

Just my 2p but perhaps the value of such data and the importance / interpretation the some people assign to it might be an interesting discussion. 



about 8 years ago


Andy @ FirstFound

Very interesting.

I'd like to see how well the Tories' massive AdWords campaign is performing too.

about 8 years ago

Jake Brumby

Jake Brumby, Managing Director at Mr Monkey Limited

Interesting stats. The spike for Nick Clegg came because he was on TV and nobody knew who he was. Then the papers all picked it up and generated a lot of buzz for Clegg and the Lib Dems. It doesn't mean people will vote for them.

What this election should come down to is the economy, which is in absolute tatters. The party most likely to sort out the economy is Conservative and when it comes to the ballot box, the thinking people won't touch Labour with a bargepole because Gordon Brown fueled the boom and bust, the majority won't choose the Lib Dems because they are an unknown quantity so the majority will vote Conservative because they have the best track record of managing the economy.

How many "thinking" people there are in the UK, we will see...

about 8 years ago


Guy Grobler

Quite an intresting read. 

I wonder if google can link IP with postcode/area and then link the postcode/area with constituency - we could then see a reflection of which constituencies are looking for information or for "change" and which are happy where they are (as in - not doing too many search's)... then again - I'm not sure if this would be a step too far in sharing information.

about 8 years ago

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

@Guy Even if you did link IP to approximate area the data you would be looking at would be no more that what people were using Google to search for. It would tell you nothing about their sentiment either way or even what was driving their search necessarily.

These would be huge inferences. 

Also the data would be fairly meaningless as;

(a) Google is not the only source of information that they could be using

(b) Demographics in different areas may well influence online behavior and therefore lead to even more inaccuracy.

(c)  Correlation between IP address and constituency will probably not work too well. 

Because of the above I think it would be difficult to understand the margin of error. 

about 8 years ago


Mat Morrison

Have you tried the searches "Gordon Brown is" "David Cameron is" etc? Interesting results

about 8 years ago

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