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Mapping the „Search Agenda:‟ A
Citizen-Centric Approach to
Political Information Flows in
Elections
Filippo Trevisan
Unive...
2

The Voter Ecology Project:
 Project team: Andrew Hoskins, Sarah Oates, Filippo
Trevisan, Dounia Mahlouly.
 Exploring ...
Informational Environment in
Elections – The story so far:

Traditional
News Media

Political
Parties/Candidates

Citizens...
A Citizen-Centric Approach: Information
gathering as purposive behaviour
Unexpected searches
Expected searches

Citizen Ag...
5

Mapping the „Search Agenda:‟
 Unexpected searches are user-driven and do not reflect
the priorities of journalists/edi...
6

Mapping the „Search Agenda:‟
 Traditional pol comm scholarship: content analysis of news media and
election manifestos...
7

And in practice? Searching for leaders in the
2010 UK general election:
120

100

Google Trends score

80

60

David Ca...
pr
29 - 10
-A
pr
30 - 10
-A
p
01 r- 10
-M
a
02 y-10
-M
a
03 y-10
-M
a
04 y-10
-M
a
05 y-10
-M
a
06 y-10
-M
a
07 y-10
-M
a
...
-A
p
29 r-10
-A
p
30 r-10
-A
01 p r- 1
-M 0
a
02 y - 1
-M 0
a
03 y - 1
-M 0
a
04 y - 1
-M 0
a
05 y - 1
-M 0
a
06 y - 1
-M ...
Google Search score

Thematic Leap? Did voters search
for info about immigration policy?

 In the U.S., Mitt Romney‟s “bi...
11

In conclusion:
 Google Trends enables us to approach the study of information flows in
elections from the point of vi...
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Mapping the 'Search Agenda' in Elections - ECREA Comms & Democracy 2013 Conference

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Presentation about the Voter Ecology Project (www.voterecology.com) at the ECREA Communication and Democracy Section annual conference, 11-12 Oct. 2013, Munich, Germany.

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Mapping the 'Search Agenda' in Elections - ECREA Comms & Democracy 2013 Conference

  1. 1. Mapping the „Search Agenda:‟ A Citizen-Centric Approach to Political Information Flows in Elections Filippo Trevisan University of Glasgow ECREA Symposium „(Mis)understanding Political Participation‟ Munich, 12th Oct. 2013 www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net
  2. 2. 2 The Voter Ecology Project:  Project team: Andrew Hoskins, Sarah Oates, Filippo Trevisan, Dounia Mahlouly.  Exploring search engine use in elections in established democracies (United Kingdom, United States), challenged democracies (Italy) and transitional states (Egypt)  Part of the ESRC-funded “Google Data Analytics Social Science Research” initiative developed during the Google Forum UK (2010-12) 1. Research framework: A citizen-centric approach 2. Methods and preliminary results: Mapping the „search agenda‟ with Google Trends and nexus analysis www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net
  3. 3. Informational Environment in Elections – The story so far: Traditional News Media Political Parties/Candidates Citizens (“Audience”) www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net 3
  4. 4. A Citizen-Centric Approach: Information gathering as purposive behaviour Unexpected searches Expected searches Citizen Agenda (Search Agenda) News media Agenda Campaigns Agenda www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net 4
  5. 5. 5 Mapping the „Search Agenda:‟  Unexpected searches are user-driven and do not reflect the priorities of journalists/editors and candidates/parties. They could focus on, for example: - Policy „elephants in the room‟ - Gaffes, gossip and/or scandal - „Thematic leaps‟ - Generation-specific issues  Q: How can we compare the three agendas? www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net
  6. 6. 6 Mapping the „Search Agenda:‟  Traditional pol comm scholarship: content analysis of news media and election manifestos/websites (e.g. Gibson and Ward, 2003; Gibson, 2013; Lilleker and Jackson, 2011)  But: resource-intensive and potentially distortive: applying old frames to a new context.  Turn the process upside down: start from citizens/users 1. Identify moments in which demand for online political information is at its peak through Google Trends (google.com/trends) 2. Examine key „search events‟ in detail through nexus analysis (Scollon and Scollon, 2004) to establish what boosted user-interest in politics, whether the issue(s) involved was also high on the news and/or campaign agendas, and map its trajectory across both new and traditional media. www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net
  7. 7. 7 And in practice? Searching for leaders in the 2010 UK general election: 120 100 Google Trends score 80 60 David Cameron Gordon Brown Nick Clegg 40 20 10 /2 0 10 31 /0 5 /2 0 10 24 /0 5 /2 0 10 17 /0 5 /2 0 10 10 /0 5 /2 0 10 03 /0 5 /2 0 10 26 /0 4 /2 0 10 19 /0 4 /2 0 10 12 /0 4 /2 0 10 05 /0 4 /2 0 10 29 /0 3 /2 0 10 22 /0 3 /2 0 10 15 /0 3 /2 0 /0 3 08 01 /0 3 /2 0 10 0 www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net
  8. 8. pr 29 - 10 -A pr 30 - 10 -A p 01 r- 10 -M a 02 y-10 -M a 03 y-10 -M a 04 y-10 -M a 05 y-10 -M a 06 y-10 -M a 07 y-10 -M a 08 y-10 -M a 09 y-10 -M a 10 y-10 -M a 11 y-10 -M a 12 y-10 -M a 13 y-10 -M ay -1 0 28 -A 13/05/2010 12/05/2010 11/05/2010 10/05/2010 09/05/2010 08/05/2010 07/05/2010 06/05/2010 05/05/2010 04/05/2010 03/05/2010 02/05/2010 01/05/2010 30/04/2010 29/04/2010 28/04/2010 27/04/2010 Bigot-gate: Search patterns vs. news media coverage 40 250 Bigot-gate searches 20 100 50 0 www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net 8 Bigot-gate popularity on Google.co.uk 120 Bigot-gate searches 100 80 60 Bigot-gate in the British press 200 0 150 All Text Lead Paragraph Headline
  9. 9. -A p 29 r-10 -A p 30 r-10 -A 01 p r- 1 -M 0 a 02 y - 1 -M 0 a 03 y - 1 -M 0 a 04 y - 1 -M 0 a 05 y - 1 -M 0 a 06 y - 1 -M 0 a 07 y - 1 -M 0 a 08 y - 1 -M 0 a 09 y - 1 -M 0 a 10 y - 1 -M 0 a 11 y - 1 -M 0 a 12 y - 1 -M 0 a 13 y - 1 -M 0 ay -1 0 28 Bigot-gate Popularity Bigot-gate popularity on the „Search Agenda‟ and the „News Media Agenda:‟ 120 100 80 60 UK Press (All text) UK Press (Headlines) 40 Google.co.uk 20 0 www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net 9
  10. 10. Google Search score Thematic Leap? Did voters search for info about immigration policy?  In the U.S., Mitt Romney‟s “binders full of women” gaffe had opposite results (i.e. the average search popularity for info about women‟s rights/gender gap etc. increased following the episode) www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net 10
  11. 11. 11 In conclusion:  Google Trends enables us to approach the study of information flows in elections from the point of view of citizens, fundamentally integrating and possibly overthrowing what we already know on the basis of news coverage and campaign communication analysis.  Exploring search patterns with Google Trends provides opportunities to review events that have become „crystallised‟ in academic and media literature from a different perspective, possibly de-bunking speculative assumptions. However…  Google Trends only provides a limited amount of information. As such, it is useful to generate cues and raise new questions, but should only be used in conjunction with other methods as part of a comprehensive inquiry strategy.  In addition, a useful longitudinal data series is best generated at the end of a cycle of events (e.g. election campaign). Yet, it can be difficult to map the media trajectories of events and messages retroactively. www.voterecology.com  www.filippotrevisan.net

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