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Who’s Googling what where

Thanks to kottke.org, I’ve spent too much free time playing with StateStats, a site that shows how popular a Google search query is in each U.S. state. Using information from 2004 to the present, it not only compares the rankings (first place scoring 100) but shows how the query correlates with state rankings in other areas, such as age, income and who people voted for.

There isn’t data for every possible search (“jay-z” but no “springsteen” or “zappa”). And the site explicitly warns against drawing conclusions, saying “the fact that “walmart” shows a moderate correlation with “Obesity” does not imply that people who search for “walmart” are obese!” Still, it’s fun to play around.

Some results are just as you might expect:

  • Likely due to our last two elections, South Dakota is tops for “abortion,” for which the highest correlation is obesity.
  • South Dakota is also first for “ethanol,” followed by Iowa (74), Nebraska (62)and North Dakota (55).
  • The top two states for “hockey” are Minnesota and North Dakota (85). (South Dakota ranked 15th.) It should also come as no surprise that the latitude of the state is strongly correlated with that search.
  • Similarly, “tornado” is popular in Tornado Alley (Kansas is first) and California tops the list for “earthquake.”

Some results are intriguing:

  • Vermont is tops for “bob dylan.” I wonder if there’s any correlation with its first place rank for “marijuana“?
  • Seventeen states actually scored a 0 for “sex addict,” including the Dakotas, Iowa and Nebraska. California was first, followed by Mississippi.
  • It seems inexplicable that Florida is first for “blizzard.” North Dakota (94) and South Dakota (89) were second and third.
  • Every state scored at least 69 (Hawaii) for “books” with Tennessee, Utah and Oregon all getting 100. South Dakota came in tied for 44th with 81.
  • Pennsylvania has a large lead in the rank for “reading,” as second place Massachusetts scored only a 60 and every other state was below 50.
  • Nebraska is first for “libraries” (with South Dakota sixth) while North Dakota and Montana are last with 30 and 28, respectively. If you use “library,” though, Ohio is first, Nebraska falls to 37th and South Dakota next to last.
  • South Dakota, though, comes in fourth for “peace” at 87, trailing Vermont (100), South Carolina (92) and the District of Columbia (90). There are moderate correlations with voting for Obama, latitude and age
  • South Dakota is 49th and North Dakota 50th for “prius, “art” and “doctor.”

Finally, other results are rather disturbing:

  • South Dakota is fourth for “incest” with a 96. Arkansas ranked first and the two highest correlations are energy consumption and voting for Bush, respectively.
  • Although ranking 26th for “porn,” South Dakota is first for “boobs.” At first I thought the significance of that could be mitigated by whether the term was used to refer to anatomy or thinking ability. The fact we also came in first for “boobies” seems to undercut that argument. South Dakota ranks far lower in other anatomical slang searches.
  • North Dakota and South Dakota ranked first and second for “alcohol” and “drinking,” with 100 and 96, respectively. (The District of Columbia is first, though, if the search term is “booze.”) Does that mean we Dakotans believe imbibing is essential to staying warm in cold weather. The strongest correlations? Latitude and frost. The most negative correlations are illiteracy and violent crime. Is the latter because it’s too cold or that we’re too drunk?

The internet is the trailer park for the soul.

Marilyn Manson

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