If you’ve done a search online for “Rush Limbaugh” or “Rick Santorum” lately, you may have also been looking for a weight loss remedy.
That’s one of the conclusions from sociologist Shankar Vedantam, who’s been running the new Google Correlate through its paces.
Google Correlate describes itself as a tool that “finds search patterns which correspond with real-world trends.” It can tell you, for example, what region in the country people are from who tend to be searching on a particular term, as well as what other searches are being done by people who are doing that particular search – i.e. what other terms are correlated with this term.
Vedantam talked about this on NPR’s Morning Edition, and gave, as an example, a correlation between searches on certain political commentators and searches to do with food. He found that people who searched on liberal commentators like Rachel Maddow also tended to search for foods like arugula pasta, fake meat, beet salad, fennel salad, tofu and vegetarian recipes. People who searched on conservative names like Rush Limbaugh tended not to be searching for particular kinds of foods but rather for help in losing weight – there was a correlation with acai berry diets, prescription weight loss remedies, and weight loss pills.
His conclusion: while we tell ourselves that we vote for people and parties based on weighing their policies and ideologies, it seems, rather, that our political choices are much more a product of our personal identity. So if you’re the kind of person, for example, who tends toward being a vegetarian, you’re less likely to be a Republican.
Not surprisingly, political consultants and campaign strategists are diving right into data like this. After all, if you’re a Democrat who’s looking to reach Democratic voters, you might want to invite people to a veggie cookout. It would be guaranteed to be largely Republican-free, and you can expect that most of the people who show up will be people you want to talk to and who might be persuaded to volunteer or donate to your campaign.
There have been other studies that indicate that our political choices are based a lot less on weighing policies and much more on unconscious drives. Now Google is giving some more evidence of this.
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What do you say? Does your personal life style tend to influence your political choices? Let us know in a comment or on Facebook.