(TNS) -- Google’s ability to look into the future of political contests just notched another win: New Hampshire.
Searches of presidential candidates conducted by Google users in New Hampshire on Feb. 9 corresponded closely with the actual results of the state’s primary voters. The top searched Democratic candidate was Bernie Sanders, who won with 60 percent of vote in New Hampshire, according to the Associated Press. He got 72 percent of the searches, according to Google, while Hillary Clinton got 28 percent of the queries and 38 percent of the vote.
The top searched Republican candidate was Donald Trump, who won with 35 percent of the vote. On Google, he received 41 percent of the searches an hour before the polls closed, according to the search giant. No. 2 was John Kasich, who got both 16 percent of the votes and searches. Ted Cruz took third with 12 percent of the votes and 15 percent of the searches. The battle between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio was close online and in real life. While Bush took fourth place at the polls, winning 11 percent of the vote, online he got 7 percent of the searches. Meanwhile, Rubio got 10 percent of the searches and 10.6 percent of the vote.
This is the first U.S. presidential election in which Google is releasing the real-time results of trending search queries. Previously, the Alphabet Inc. unit had released aggregated search data with a delay of a few days.
Even before news outlets began looking to the data to judge how a candidate was doing during a debate, there have been signs that the data was a window into a nation’s collective curiosity.
In the weeks leading up to Canada’s elections in October, Justin Trudeau became the top-searched leader. His party went on to win with 54 percent of the vote. Similarly, Google said in May that search trends showed wide interest in David Cameron’s Conservative Party while polls were showing the race was neck-and-neck. Ultimately, Cameron’s party won in an upset.
While some academics have questioned whether Google’s trending data can predict anything, Nikos Askitas, director of data and technology at the Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany, says that in some instances the search results may be a good indicator. He studied Google trends each hour during July’s Greek referendum on the euro and found it accurately forecast the results — even when exit polls were unclear. “It was easy,” Askitas said. “The event was intense so simple tracking yes- sayers and no-sayers sufficed. In the U.S. elections, I am planning to take a look at it but it is not clear whether one can find such a strategy.”
Google remains coy about the power of its ability to look into the future. “We don’t make predictions but I would say that the data is really interesting,” Simon Rogers, data editor of Google’s News Lab team, said last year in an interview. “The data gives you incredible insight to the way people are thinking.”
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