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This article was published on October 28, 2020

Google data shows how different 2020 is from other US election years

A new data visualization project traces Google search trends across the last five elections

Google data shows how different 2020 is from other US election years Image by: Element5 Digital

The political interests of Americans have shifted dramatically in this election year, according to a new analysis of internet searches.

The Waves of Interest project tracked Google Search Trends across the previous five election cycles to investigate how public concerns have changed.

The data shows a surge in interest in the election process. The top rising search term at present is “electoral fraud,” with a 366% increase in interest at the time of writing, followed by “postal voting,” “opinion poll,” “fact check,” “voting,” and “election.”

COVID-19 has also inevitably had a major impact on the public’s political focuses, highlighted by increases in search terms including “vaccine,” “sick leave,” and “unemployment.”

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

In contrast, classic political issues such as foreign policy and education appear to have lost importance for many Americans, while topic peaks in 2020 have been unusually short-lived.

“There was basically a new hugely spiking topic every month,” wrote project lead Moritz Stefaner.

The collaboration between Google News initiative and data visualization firm explores 69 topics covering the most searched political concepts in the US, subjects from Pew Research Center’s election surveys, and a few manual additions on emerging 2020 issues.

The search data is depicted on charts showing how interest has progressed through recent election cycles. The website also shows the top rising terms, the full collection of topics, and the variations in search behavior in different states over the years.

You can explore the data yourself at the Waves of Interest website.

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