No matter what side you’re on, we all have questions…and Google has the answers. Some of them anyway. There’s no shortage of data and insights from the world’s most popular search engine.
When an issue is all over the news, it also sparks interest online. When people search for something, Google tracks it. This search trends data can offer insight into the thoughts, perceptions and perhaps, pure curiosity across the country. And we can even break it down by state and location.
*The following is public data from Google Trends, specific to search activity in the United states over the last 12 months.
1. When and why are people searching for “gun control”?
Over the last 12 months, searches for “Gun Control” skyrocketed the first week of October 2017 (Las Vegas shooting Oct. 1st) and and week of February 18th (Parkland shooting Feb. 14th) , with another noticeable bump in early November 2017 (Texas Church shooting). Without presuming viewpoints on the issue, it’s a safe infer that the shootings spiked curiosity in control issues based on this data.
2. Which state has the most “interest” in the search term “gun control” over the last 12 months?
Keep in mind that just because someone is searching for “gun control,” doesn’t mean we know whether they support or oppose the issue. We can assume that they are looking for more information on that subject, whether it be news, forums or research.
*Google determines “interest” based on the popularity of the term in each location during the specified time frame. Values are calculated on a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 is the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location.
Note: A higher value means a higher proportion of all queries, not a higher absolute query count. So a tiny country where 80% of the queries are for “bananas” will get twice the score of a giant country where only 40% of the queries are for “bananas”.
3. Are more people searching “gun control” or to “buy guns”?
This shows that comparatively, there are less people searching on Google to “buy guns” than “gun control.” It’s interesting, however, that these two search terms follow a similar pattern – notice the bumps in “buy guns” surrounding each mass shooting. This suggests that mass shootings and media coverage probably spark interest in both gun control and gun sales.
4. Which state had the most interest in the search term “buy guns” over the last 12 months?
While Alaska is a very large state, its population is less than 800k, so while a large percentage of its residents are searching for this term, New Mexico or Idaho may actually have a higher number of people searching. See “interest” explanation in #2.
5. Searches for the “NRA” follow a similar pattern with most interest from Montana.
Searches for “NRA” also follow the pattern of other gun-related search terms, spiking around major shootings.
6. A search for world peace
On a positive note, it seems like the “search” for world peace has never been higher, both literally and figuratively. We see a large spike after the parkland shootings this February. Hopefully this is a sign that both sides are ready to put aside our differences and in hopes of a more peaceful future. Oklahoma, lead the way : )
*PS. Metta World Peace (aka Ron Artest) may be skewing the search data. Either way, we’ll take it.