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Google's Crystal Ball - NYTimes.com


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Comparing the timing of our Google searches to outside events is often intriguing. Searches for “McCain life expectancy” rose to unprecedented levels the day of his controversial choice of the Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. They rose again after Ms. Palin’s poorly received interview with Katie Couric.

This is a really cool idea:

In my work in economics, I use anonymous, aggregate data from millions of Google searches in hundreds of media markets in the United States to measure variables on sensitive topics — racism, drug dealing and child abuse, for example — where people tend to be less forthcoming in surveys (to put it mildly).

And rather surprising:

Every month, about 5,000 people ask Google about Mitt Romney’s underwear choice (devout Mormons wear temple garments). But some of what we learn is disturbing. On Election Day in 2008, roughly 1 in 100 searches that included “Obama” also included “KKK” or “nigger.”

Our thoughts are often superficial. “Paul Ryan shirtless” is currently Googled 9 times more often than “Paul Ryan budget.” Don’t ask me why, but “Paul Ryan shirtless” is Googled more frequently in blue states than in red. When we search for “Michelle Obama,” we include the word “ugly” three times as often as the word “beautiful.”

Oh American population, can you really be that sad?

I want to hear about the other research he did. Fascinating.

Does he have a blog or website?

I found his paper (PDF). Worth reading.

He also has a blog post: How racist are we?

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