Chapter 10, Google trends as a tool for public opinion research: An illustration of the perceived threats of immigration

Lorenz, Reilly ; Beck, Jacob ; Horneber, Sophie ; Keusch, Florian ; Antoun, Christopher

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URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-630460
Document Type: Book chapter
Year of publication: 2022
Book title: Migration research in a digitized world : using innovative technology to tackle methodological challenges
The title of a journal, publication series: IMISCOE Research Series
Page range: 193-206
Publisher: Pötzschke, Steffen ; Rinken, Sebastian
Place of publication: Cham
Publishing house: Springer International Publishing
ISBN: 978-3-031-01318-8 , 978-3-031-01320-1 , 978-3-031-01321-8 , 978-3-031-01319-5
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Social Sciences > Social Data Science and Methodology (Keusch 2022-)
Pre-existing license: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Subject: 070 News media, journalism, publishing
300 Social sciences, sociology, anthropology
Abstract: To gather public opinion data on sensitive topics in real-time, researchers are exploring the use of Internet search data such as Google Trends (GT). First, this chapter describes the characteristics and nature of GT data, and then provides a case study that examines the salience of perceived threats related to immigration in Germany based on the share of Google search queries that include language about these threats. Last, we discuss the advantages and possible challenges of utilizing GT data in social scientific research. We used the national polling results for the German right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)—which runs on a largely anti-immigrant platform—as a criterion measure. GT data did not consistently predict polling data in the expected direction in real-time, but it was consistently predictive of future polling trends (35–104 weeks later) at a moderate level (r = .25–.50), although the size of the correlations varied across time periods and groups of keywords. Our mixed results highlight the low reliability of GT data, but also its largely untapped potential as a leading indicator of public opinion, especially on sensitive topics such as the perceived threats of immigration.

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