What Google Trends Reveals About Republican And Democrat Climate Change Concerns
    By News Staff | July 16th 2014 01:15 PM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Is it true that you can discern how someone votes based on their Google search history related to science and health issues? It seems to be so, in a majority of cases.

    Republicans search for information about the weather, climate change and global warming during extremely hot or cold spells while Democrats search those terms when they experience changes in the average temperatures.

    Corey Lang of the University of Rhode Island tracked how the temperature fluctuations and rainfall that Americans experience daily in their own cities make them scour the Internet in search of information about climate change and global warming.

    To do so, he used data from Google Trends, local weather stations and election results.

    Google Trends aggregates all Google searches that are made, and measures how popular a specific search term is. Users can fine tune this to be specific to a particular place (such as a country or city) and time (such as monthly or on a specific date).

    Lang specifically checked how often, when and where citizens in 205 cities in the US used the search terms "global warming," "climate change" and "weather." The terms "drought" and "flood" were also included because increases in these natural phenomena are important predicted impacts of climate change. Monthly statistics were collected for the period from January 2004 to May 2013. Lang then matched them with local weather station data, as well as the 2008 presidential election results in Dave Leip's "Atlas of Presidential Elections."

    Lang found that search activity increased when extreme heat was felt in summer, when no rain fell over extended periods, and when there were fewer extreme cold snaps in winter. Such weather fluctuations are consistent with projected climate change. Interestingly though, searches also increased when average winter and spring temperatures dropped – events that are inconsistent with global warming.

    Lang believes this could mean that people who observe unusual extreme weather conditions are genuinely interested in learning more about climate change. It could, however, also mean that deniers, who experience an unusually cool winter, go online to confirm their skeptical views that the world is not really growing warmer.

    People from varying political and educational backgrounds reach for their devices at different times to check out information on climate change. Republicans and people from less educated areas do more relevant searches during periods of extreme temperatures, while Democrats and residents of well-educated areas do so when they experience changes in average temperatures.

    "Weather fluctuations have an impact on climate change related search behavior, however not always in ways that are consistent with the impacts of climate change. And the research suggests that different types of people experience weather differently or have different perceptions about what type of weather defines climate change, " concludes Lang.

    Published in Climatic Change. Source: Springer


    A fairly meaningless piece, whatever your views on climate change.

    "Republicans search for information about the weather, climate change and global warming during extremely hot or cold spells while Democrats search those terms when they experience changes in the average temperatures. "

    Extremely hot or cold spells are by definition changes in the applicable average temperature.

    Unusually cold weather is also completely consistent with global warming, just as unusually warm weather is completely consistent with no global warming. Extremes in local weather provide no useful information about climate change.

    It seems like this piece served mostly as an opportunity to use the word 'denier', and 'Republican' in the same sentence.

    'Climate change deniers' typically don't even deny that the climate changes. The denial if anything relates to the primacy of human released C02 in driving the changes we do see, or that the human contribution represents an unacceptable risk of serious harm that exceeds the benefits fossil fuels are known to provide.

    Well, it is published in Climatic Change. It isn't going to get published unless it matches the journal.

    I wonder why someone has not started a There Is No Climate Change journal if so many scientists don't agree it exists.
    I suspect most scientists do agree climate change exists - but that isn't saying much. The causes and implications are far more relevant, and I am not clear exactly what the article is trying to say about those in relation to the political persuasion of Google searchers.
    "Climate Change Denier" is a singularly useless term, because it could include everybody or nobody, depending on what precisely is being denied about climate change.

    If you then hope to correlate an ill defined group to a political demographic, via Google search terms, are you not inherently begging the question? Perhaps I have misunderstood, but the search terms selected as a proxy for the political demographic of each searcher would seem to reveal more about the assumptions of the researcher than anything else.

    Absolutely, and I agree with your overall point. Clearly Democrats skew anti-science on biology, medicine and energy, but it's not to say they all can be hit with that blanket claim.

    Add a comment

    The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
    • Allowed HTML tags: <span> <sup> <sub> <a> <em> <strong> <center> <cite><TH><ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <br> <p> <blockquote> <strike> <object> <param> <embed> <del> <pre> <b> <i> <table> <tbody> <div> <tr> <td> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <hr> <iframe><u><font>
    • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
    If you register, you will never be bothered to prove you are human again. And you get a real editor toolbar to use instead of this HTML thing that wards off spam bots.