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Google Trends in lieu of opinion polls

Posted May. 04, 2017 07:17,   

Updated May. 04, 2017 07:32


One thing that has clearly demonstrated how big data can be used in daily life is prediction of influenza outbreaks based on the frequency of Google searches. In 2008, Google developed influenza trend service that predicts influenza outbreaks by picking 40 major keywords people searched online when infected with flu, and tracing the frequency of their searches. The journal Nature published in the following year a study suggesting that there is a relationship between the frequency of questions relating to influenza on Google search and the frequency of influenza patients’ hospital visits.

Some experts say that the winner of last year’s U.S. presidential election was big data. With major U.S. media having predicted Hillary Clinton’s victory in the election, figures that predicted Donald Trump’s election win based on the volume of SNS posts, and Internet and mobile searches proved to be the closest to the actual outcome of the election. Big data analysis is considered a means that allows the analyzers to read voter sentiment among "shy voters," who cause predictions through opinion polls to be less accurate.

Google Trends is most conveniently used in big data analysis. Minjoo Party candidate Moon Jae-in’s election camp argued on Tuesday that People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo camp’s claim that the volume of search on Ahn exceeded that of Moon in the volume of Google Trends search was wrong. Moon’s camp claimed that while Ahn outpaced Moon during April 4 and April 18, Moon came from behind to stay ahead from April 18. Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo also joined the foray on Wednesday in a bid to win over rivals. Hong’s election camp claims that the volumes of searches for Moon and Hong stood at almost the same beginning this month.

Results of opinion polls will no longer be announced from Wednesday until after the May 9 election. Voters have no choice but to try and use Google Trends, albeit inadequate. According to the National Election Commission, given that big data analyses are not opinion polls, their results are not banned from public release. But the organization has urged people to use caution, saying that such analyses could be distorted. Unlike opinion polls, anyone can check Google Trends in person. Just type in "Moon Jae-in" in Search and then "Ahn Cheol-soo," or "Hong Joon-pyo" in the "Compare" column, and you will find a graph that gives an overview of comparative figures. However, you should note that since not many Koreans are using Google Search just yet, the outcome could be less accurate than in English-speaking nations.