During an election cycle, when the Internet becomes an echo chamber shaped to feed your specific interests and biases, it’s easy to forget that other people, places, and opinions exist.“The president of the US, whether you like it or not, affects life all over the world,” says Gabriele Rossi of design studio Accurat. There’s an entire world of people outside of the US who care very much about what happens on November 8—and there’s search data to prove it.
Rossi, along with Giorgia Lupi of Dear Data and the rest of the Accurat team, partnered with Google News Lab to bring this data to life through a project called World Potus. Using data from Google Trends Index over the last 24 hours, Accurat created an interactive web and desktop application that looks at how countries outside the US are searching Google for issues related to the election. Toggling back and forth between candidates will show you how often “Hillary Clinton” or “Donald Trump” appears in the same search query as issues relating to abortion, Black Lives Matter, the economy, gun control, ISIS, and so on.
You can explore this data in a variety of ways. The app’s three main views organize the information by geography, search similarity, and how the search trends are changing over time. All of them center around colorful bubbles, which Rossi says are a visual metaphor for the evolving conversations happening around the world. “We like this analogy between the fact that conversations and opinions are like an ever-moving blobs,”he says.
Each bubble represents a geographic area; the bigger the bubble, the larger the interest in a particular topic. You can see, for instance, that in the last 24 hours, Africa is the continent most interested in Hillary Clinton, while residents of Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) do the bulk of Googling on Donald Trump. Sweden is searching Clinton and foreign policy far more than Canada, while globally Clinton’s views on global warming don’t even register for the Scandinavian country. On the whole, more people search for Trump, period (no surprise there), but when it comes to certain topics like gun control and oil, the two candidates seem to pull equal levels of interest from around the world.
There’s no way to know how people searching for these terms actually feel about the candidates or the issues. It’s safe to assume that most of the search trends are in some way tied to the news cycle, but even that’s just an assumption. As a result, the app’s data is an imperfect representation of what conversations are happening around the world—a fact that Lupi says is inherent in most data. ”Lately we’ve been thinking a lot about how data is imperfect because it’s primarily human made,” she says. “We wanted to depict this imperfection and fuzziness of the data that’s not perfect.” Perfect or imperfect, World Potus is a valuable reminder that the impact of this election will extend well beyond America’s borders.