Google Trends: Local campaign reform, bears in schools and some fowl luck

“State Legislatures” and “Campaign Reform” nationwide from Jan. 1, 2012, to Jan. 1, 2016.


Notice how the two lines in this trend graph mirror each other pretty closely: When search interest in “state legislatures” increases, Google searches for “campaign reform” also increase at relatively comparable levels.

When one adds “national election” as a third term, both of these first terms plummet to being flat lines along the bottom of the graph, indicating proportional interest in “presidential election” far outpaces the other two terms, even between election cycles.

This suggests campaign reform interest is more closely related to state legislatures than presidential campaigns, which is interesting in light of the 2016 primaries where questions about how candidates are selected, especially within the Democratic Party.

While it is true “campaign reform” spiked much higher than “state legislatures” during election week in 2012, both terms followed a similar pattern. The same can be said about the mid-term elections in 2014, when “state legislatures” reached far above “campaign reform,” even though both terms saw drastic increases in the weeks and months leading up to Election Day.

This Google Trends data provides physical evidence for the claim that campaign reform is most easily associated in voters’ minds with more local elections. Indeed, when “local elections” is added as a third term, it also sees similar amounts of interest during the off-election months. It spikes much higher during the weeks leading up to elections, which are often based on yearly cycles rather than the two- or four-year terms of national and state politics, but returns to similar search levels as the first two terms.

Proponents of campaign reform should be encouraged by this data, as it shows that there is a willingness by voters to tie reform to local elections, which is both easier to achieve as well as debatably even more effective at changing the face of everyday politics for average citizens.


“Grizzly Bear” and “Betsy DeVos” nationwide over the last 30 days.


This demonstrates the power of one person’s ability to bring attention and curiosity not only toward themselves, but a particular subject they are passionate about.

Or a subject they use as an excuse, in the case of Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s secretary of education nominee.

In response to a question from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut — whose district includes Newtown, Connecticut — DeVos waffled before suggesting the threat of grizzly bears as a possible reason to keep guns in schools.

Aside from the fact that there are only three states in the continental U.S. you can even find wild grizzly bears (Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, the state where the particular school DeVos pointed to, Wapiti Elementary, is located), DeVos’ comment was interpreted by many as her refusal to outlaw guns from schools nationwide.

While the gun issue has been a partisan issue for a long time and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, the grizzly bear really stole the show, at least according to Google Trends.

DeVos’ comments drew enough attention to the large mammals to create a hump in Google searches for “grizzly bears,” even in relation to the massive increase in searches for “Betsy DeVos.”

DeVos’ comments, while containing absolutely nothing substantial or informational about grizzly bears, created a surge in internet interest about the black bear’s larger, ill-tempered and misunderstood cousin.

This data gives us solid evidence for an albeit well-understood fact about today’s world: what candidates talk about, and what the media chooses to highlight, matters. The topics of discussion that dominate the news unsurprisingly also influence the awareness of the public.

While this seems like a ‘duh’ observation, with the ascension of Trump to the nation’s highest public office and his demonstrated smokescreen tactics drawing attention away from things that paint him or his associates in a negative light, it will be more important than ever to understand how what Trump says and the media reports affect the national attention and how hard those influences are to overcome.

Speaking of bears in schools though, here’s your fun video for the day: As the high school down the road from my hometown in Montana discovered, there are gun-free ways to expel a bear. Sorry, Mrs. DeVos.


“Geese” and “Butte, Montana” nationwide over the last 90 days.


Thousands of unfortunate snow geese landed in Butte, Montana’s Berkeley Pit on Dec. 6, resulting in thousands of bird deaths, according to experts. The story spread worldwide and was picked up by publications such as the New York Times and the BBC.

The Berkeley Pit, an old open-pit mine in Butte — a once booming mining town which was nicknamed the ‘Richest Hill on Earth’ because of the amount of copper extracted from the area — has filled with acidic water in the decades since mining operations ceased. While it is rapidly filling and will soon threaten the city’s streams and groundwater if actions are not taken to treat the water in the pit, the environmental disaster caused more sympathy for the geese than it did for the city.

According to this Google Trends timeline, searches for “geese” drastically spiked Dec. 7, the day most major publications picked up on the story, while searches for “Butte, Montana,” which usually outnumber queries for the waterfowl, barely increased at all, proving my theory that even when major news happens there, no one really cares about Montana.

Or no one even knows it exists. One of those two.


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