Friday, October 28, 2011

No, Google can NOT predict Ireland's next president

I asked in an earlier post if I might be able to use Google's Insights for Search service to predict the results of Ireland's presidential election, by comparing the candidates in terms of their popularity as search terms on Google. Insights showed Sean Gallagher far in the lead, yet I remarked that recent media questions about Gallagher's alleged connections to an unpopular party might be bloating his results: Gallagher might have been attracting viewers because of enraged curiosity, not support.

There are other issues. I suggested the Google users might misspell candidate names. The graph below shows that several versions of Michael D Higgins were popular over the last few days, suggesting that Higgins-related searches were split, and perhaps artificially made seem smaller:
As I write the votes are still being counted, but Michael D Higgins is 'on course for victory' and Gallagher has phoned him in congratulations.

So my little experiment seems to have failed! I can only blame my own use of Google Insights for Search: perhaps a more thorough and scientific approach would have revealed more telling data. Simply placing candidate names into Insights cannot accurately predict the outcomes of elections.

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