Banerjee at Opindia.com 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
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
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”.