Indian Elections and Google Trends

Google Searches for Mr. Modi

Mr. Banerjee at very interestingly put together a post saying the Google Trends predicts another government by Mr. Modi for the next five years. The elegant chart below tries to reproduce from Google Trends exactly his findings.

Last 90 days party comparisons

We are looking at data for the last 90 days in India. As you can see, it’s all BJP! So is he right?

Well, it depends….

You see, the way that Google Trends displays data is by an index of the most popular of the terms being compared. In this case, BJP is undeniably more popular. However, if we see the search for each party individually and try to figure out who is increasingly more popular( only on Google though), these are the pictures that emerge.


Indian National Congress

Although the charts show that BJP’s popularity is on a sharper decline, both parties’ popularity is on the wane, with BJP holding more sway in UP, Odisha and West Bengal. For the INC index, it shows higher values in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and the North Eastern states.

These are indexed numbers so the fact that BJP is searched for more is still not challenged. It’s just the luster seems to be going off a bit in the last few months. The Prime Minister though, asks for votes these days in his name, rather than the BJP. Let’s compare the two search terms.

Well, well! What do you know! It seems that the data people for the BJP have been urging him to take that line because while the BJP’s popularity is on the downswing, Mr. Modi is riding high.

However, this is still an index of search terms, not actual values. Perhaps, we should try and compare the popularity of the Prime Minister for a longer term and see how that has changed over time.

So, we go back 6 years and see where things were then for Mr. Modi.

As you can see, this search term is about half as popular in India as it was in May-2014. It seems to be showing a rising trend now but would it go to the same level as that resounding victory? It’s anybody’s guess right now.

Considering that the BJP is the incumbent on 72 out of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, how does the Prime Minister find himself in the top districts there?

Nowhere near his peak except for a couple of districts.

So what does this all mean?

Looking at the data from various perspectives adds to our understanding of it and perhaps muddies a clear-cut decision. In this case, perhaps all we can say is that this specific dataset does not pre-sage a clear victory for anyone. Particularly, if we consider the fact that there is no measure of sentiment involved here. Look at this picture of Google Suggest and you will see what I mean.

Google thinks the searcher(I am incognito) is more interested in his wife, caste and education. So dear reader, that’s why economists are prone to always say “It depends”.

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