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Searches for "Revolution": Up in Egypt, Greece, Spain and the USA

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, October 18 2011

If Google search trends can predict where flu will break out in advance of actual reports of flu, can search trends also predict where revolutions are brewing? Judging from search trends in Egypt, Greece, Spain and the United States, it appears that all you need to know which way the wind is blowing is a good search tool.

Here's how searches for the word "revolution" have been trending in the U.S. over the last twelve months:

Note the big jump in early August, after the climax of the debt ceiling extension fight in Congress. This coincides with a dramatic drop in public support for the entire political establishment, according to pollster Bill McInturff. "The perception of how Washington handled the debt ceiling negotiation led to an immediate collapse in confidence in government and all the major players, including President Obama and Republicans in Congress,” McInturff wrote at the end of August. While searches for "revolution" appear to have peaked in August, they are still higher than at any point in the previous twelve months and appear to be upticking again now.

There's a similar correlation in search trends in Egypt, Greece and Spain. In each case, the rate of people in the country using Google to search for "revolution" starts to rise before mass protests in the streets.

In Egypt , you can see searches rising well before the January 25 takeover of Tahrir Square.

In Greece, searches start spiking right around the massive May 5 street protests that broke out there this spring, the largest in the country since 1973.

In Spain, which has been roiling for the past year, there's a huge jump in searches for "revolution" several days before the May 15 encampments swept the country.

Correlation is not causation, of course. But given how much people use search to find information on what they are interested in, it sure is interesting to discover that many more people are interested in "revolution" these days.

One final note about the United States: References to "revolution" are also up on blogs, according to IceRocket, though there the spike coincides with September 11th and then several smaller spikes appear, which suggests a connection to Occupy Wall Street.

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