Soul Searching? State-Level Search Term Correlates of Political Behavior

  • Michael Zoorob Vanderbilt University
Keywords: Google, politics, search terms, Obama, Romney, liberal, conservative, fundamental differences


This paper explores the extent to which personality differences between liberals and conservatives manifest in different search engine queries. Using data provided by Google Correlate, I find that, in fact, there is a strong relationship between votes for either Romney or Obama in the 2012 US Presidential election and distinctive patterns of conservative or liberal search term items. I also find that highly correlated search terms can be used to predict the national election outcome; using 2012 data and a search term correlated strongly with votes for Romney, I could accurately predict the outcomes of 48 of 50 states. This research suggests that liberals and conservatives use Google in systematically divergent ways, reflecting and probably reinforcing preexisting differences. I conclude by discussing limitations and the potential for using search term activities to predict political behavior as an area warranting further study.

Author Biography

Michael Zoorob, Vanderbilt University
I am a Class of 2016 political science major at Vanderbilt University.
Research Articles