Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vox -- Persuasive proof that America is full of racist and selfish people

This is what millions of Google searches reveal about America’s racial attitudes. Although most of us didn’t need research to tell us what we already knew.

“Google is a digital truth serum,” Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies, told me in a recent interview. ‘People tell Google things that they don't tell to possibly anybody else, things they might not tell to family members, friends, anonymous surveys, or doctors.’

“Stephens-Davidowitz was working on a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard when he became obsessed with Google Trends, a tool that tracks how frequently searches are made in a given area over a given time period.

“He spent five years combing through this data. The idea was that you could get far better real-time information about what people are thinking by looking at Google Trends data than you could through polls or some other survey device.

“It turns out he was right.

"As a barometer of our national consciousness, Google is as accurate (and predictive) as it gets. In 2016, when the Republican primaries were just beginning, most pundits and pollsters did not believe Trump could win. After all, he had insulted veterans, women, minorities, and countless other constituencies.

"But Stephens-Davidowitz saw clues in his Google research that suggested Trump was far more serious than many supposed. Searches containing racist epithets and jokes were spiking across the country during Trump’s primary run, and not merely in the South but in upstate New York, Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, rural Illinois, West Virginia, and industrial Michigan.

"Stephens-Davidowitz saw in the Google Trends data a racially polarized electorate, and one primed to respond to the ethno-nationalist rhetoric of Trump.

"There were earlier signs, too. On Obama’s 2008 election night, Stephens-Davidowitz found that 'one in every hundred Google searches that included the word ‘Obama’ also included ‘KKK’' or the n-word. Searches for racist websites like Stormfront also spiked.

“There was a darkness and hatred that was hidden from traditional sources,' Stephens-Davidowitz says. 'Those searches are hard to reconcile with a society in which racism is a small factor.' "

Persuasive proof that America is full of racist and selfish people
What millions of Google searches reveal about our national psyche.

By Sean Illing