More People Are Googling Donald Trump These Days — Does That Mean He Could Win?

You can tell a lot about someone by what they search online. What you Google can reveal your interests, the questions you'd be embarrassed to ask another human being, and your hopes for the future.

"People also tell Google things — a lot of things — that they may not admit to others," wrote Stuart A. Gabriel and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz in this weekend's New York Times op-ed about election search trends.

Your search history is, in many ways, like a much more abbreviated form of a journal, where you record your thoughts and questions about what's happening in the world around you. And that's true for your own personal history as well as that of the larger population. So what does this "journal" look like over the course of one of the most bizarre and scary elections in U.S. history? We reached out to Google to find out. Its team of search-trend analysts pulled data about the most searched terms and topics at different moments during campaign season.

Click through to see what we found. Then, go to the Google Election Trends site to see more issues people are interested in as we lead up to Election Day. You might even be able to make some predictions of your own.

Photo: Earl Gibson III/Getty Images.
A year ago, in October 2015, people were mostly interested in the Democratic race. The five most searched terms were:

1. democratic debate
2. Hillary Clinton
3. who won the democratic debate
4. Bernie Sanders
5. Martin O'Malley
Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images.
Then, 8 months ago, the conversation started to shift toward the Republican race. Early contenders including Jeb Bush ranked high in searches, as did the South Carolina primary, which tends to be an early indicator for who will make it through the primary season.

Still, Hillary Clinton remained on many peoples' minds, finishing in the top five most searched election terms.

1. South Carolina primary
2. republican debate
3. Jeb Bush
4. South Carolina polls
5. Hillary Clinton
Photo: Getty Images.
This year's "Super Tuesday," March 1, 2016, the day when the largest number of states hold their Democratic and Republican primaries, resulted in major wins for Trump and all but secured his place on the Republican ticket.

It was also the day that Google searches for "move to Canada" peaked. If you're interested in joining our neighbors up north, here's what you should know.
Photo: AP Photo.
Four months ago, things took a turn. Donald Trump entered the top five searches, as did Brock Turner. Clinton came out in support of the Stanford rape survivor's powerful letter to her attacker and praised the woman for her courage.

Recent sexual assault accusations against Trump, meanwhile, have led some to draw comparisons between the Republican presidential nominee and Turner.

1. Hillary Clinton
2. Brock Turner
3. democratic primary
4. presidential polls
5. Donald Trump
Photo: Robyn Beck/Getty Images.
This month, searches have focused on the presidential debates; voter registration; and, still, Hillary Clinton, who has managed to remain in the top five searches over the course of the year.

1. presidential debate
2. Hillary Clinton
3. presidential polls
4. who won the debate
5. register to vote in the United States
Photo: Getty Images.
Of course, searches go far beyond the names of the candidates and also delve into specific issues at hand in the election. This year, searches about gun policy have largely involved Trump's name, with voters interested in what his policy is toward firearms.

The top trending searches for gun policy were:

1. Trump gun policy
2. Donald Trump
3. Facebook gun policy
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Searches for parental leave have increased steadily over the course of campaign season, with most people interested in where Trump stands on parental leave:

1. Trump maternity leave
2. DOD maternity leave
3. maternity leave meme
Photo: George Frey/Getty Images.
It wouldn't be an election if there weren't some embarrassingly horrifying, but humorous, moments. Searches for Aleppo peaked in September after libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's interview gaffe.

But the top three searches reveal that some people didn't know what Aleppo was themselves — or how to spell it.

1. Aleppo Gary Johnson
2. Aleppo moment
3. what is Alepo
Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
Ah, Donald Trump's hair: a constant source of comedic fodder and public speculation (Is it real? Is it a toupee? Will we ever know?).

Searches for "Trump hair" peaked this year, with people looking for the socks that debuted on The Rachel Maddow Show and clips of Jimmy Fallon's impersonation of the candidate.

1. Trump hair socks
2. Gawker Trump hair
3. Trump Fallon hair
Photo: Courtesy Google.
What does it all mean?
You can't know who will win an election based on search trends alone. However, they do offer insight into what is on people's minds before they enter the voting booth.

In their New York Times op-ed, Gabriel and Stephens-Davidowitz point out that for the last three elections, the candidate with the most Google searches ended up winning the election. Even though Hillary Clinton has remained in the top five for searches at four-month markers throughout the campaign season, searches for Donald Trump are at their highest ever and have increased 1,150% from June 2015 to October 2016.

But unlike during past elections, Gabriel and Stephens-Davidowitz point out that these searches may be more indicative of people's interest in reading Trump's strongly worded, often surprising statements through the election cycle (and less about a desire to vote for him).

If a look at all this search data reveals anything, it's that this election doesn't follow the trends set forth by prior campaign seasons. It's a more unpredictable election than ever before and one that historians, data nerds, and researchers will grapple to make sense of long after the votes roll in.
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