Friday, June 5, 2009 | 8:32 AM
As voters began to go to the polls to elect a new European Parliament, we thought it would be interesting to use some of advanced tools to capture the vote's trends. By deploying our public tool Insights for Search, we wer, we were able to compare the searching patterns of millions of Brits, French, German, Italians and Poles and compute how interest in a topic changes over time. In each country, we looked at the search for political parties in the run up to the election.
The results were fascinating. While many ruling parties showed surprising resilience, the searches underlined how non-traditional and often anti-European parties have gained ground. The UK presents a striking example. Interest in both Labour and the Conservatives stagnated, while smaller parties like the Greens and UK Independence party surged ahead in the wake of the MPs expenses scandal.
A word of caution is in order. It is possible to slice these data in multiple ways. People use a variety of different forms of shorthand when they search, and political parties are no different. The search queries compared here represent the least ambiguous versions of searching for a given party--BNP is a bank in addition to a party, of course, but the Greens share their name with a color and both Labour and Conservative are likewise words in their own right. In addition, there is nothing exhaustive or completely conclusive about these queries. Searches don't necessarily translate into votes.
Even so, we believe that large amounts of anonymous data provides a powerful tool for making important insights. Our Google Flu Trends allows us to predict the spread of the disease faster than public authorities and could end up saving lives. So take a moment to ruminate over the following search results taking the political pulse in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Poland.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP dominated searches and the Socialist Party continued to stagnate. But in the final days before the vote, the left-wing "Front de Gauche" and the right-wing "Front National" gained traction. The Greens, meanwhile, failed to gain real momentum.
In Germany, searches veered left. While the ruling coalition continued to dominate, junior left wing partner SPD rose faster than the Chancellor Angela Merkel's center right CDU. Centrist Free Democrats scored a strong showing and the radical left-wing Die Linke looked poised to surprise and the Greens showing a strong performance.
Italians seemed to favor the left wing PD and IDV formations over Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's ruling PDL People of Freedom. Little change was visible over the final month of campaigning.
Poles turned first to Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform. But a surprising number searched for anti-European, nationalist party Libertas, which was born out of the Irish No vote against the Lisbon Treaty.
Posted by Bill Echikson, Senior Manager, Communications