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Predicting the UK European Elections results with Google Trends

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Predicting the UK European Elections results with Google Trends

In the crazy year that was 2016, we started looking at the links between what people were searching for on Google, and how they were voting.

This started when I read that considerably more people had been searching for ‘Leave’ related topics than ‘Remain’ in the run-up to the UK’s referendum on European Union membership. Of course, the UK then voted to leave the EU – a result that defied most people’s predictions.

I then applied the same logic to the US Presidential Elections that were coming up in a few weeks. Remember that at this point, and indeed throughout the campaign, Donald Trump had never been the bookmaker’s favourite, but we found that he was getting a lot more Google traffic. On November 8th, Trump was duly elected. I then started looking into whether Google Trends could be used to predict reality TV results and even the outcomes of sporting events, with hit and miss results.

With the UK set to vote in the EU Parliamentary Elections tomorrow, now seems a good time to revive this strategy and look at what people are Googling in the lead-up to a vote that, if all had gone to plan, we wouldn’t even be having.

Yesterday afternoon, I headed to Google Trends and compared the search volumes for five of the parties hoping to win seats in the EU Parliament – the traditional ‘big two’ of Labour and Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and the newly established pro-EU Change UK group. Here’s a graph of how much each has been searched for by UK Googlers.

Image 1

The purple line represents the Brexit Party, and as you can see, it has pulled away from its competitors in terms of search volumes having been in something of a cluster with them at the start of May.

This reflects the bookmakers’ outlook, with some offering odds as short as 1/50 about the Brexit Party winning the most seats. The screenshot below was taken from Oddschecker.com yesterday afternoon.

Image 2

Where Google is differing from the bookies is in its representation of Change UK. While some bookmakers have the party down as a 1000/1 shot for the most seats, it’s the second most Googled party at present. This may simply be down to the interest factor of it being a new party though.

Interestingly, the most recent search volumes show the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives’ search traffic to mirror the order in which the bookies fancy their chances, with the Tories bottom of the pile. For the record, I also checked out volumes for the Green Party and UKIP, but both were lower than the five on the graph.

So, if we’re to read anything into Google Trends, is Change UK set to defy expectations? With just a 4% vote in the opinion polls, it would be a major shock if the breakaway party were to get anything near the second most seats, but all will soon be revealed.

John Murray

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