Mining Web Query Logs to Analyze Political Issues

Ingmar Weber of Yahoo! Labs is at MIT’s Center for Civic Media to tell us about Mining Web Query Logs to Analyze Political Issues. He’s based in Barcelona and has studied at the Max Planck Institute. Kiran Venkata and Erik Borra work with Ingmar on political search trends and how to figure out which way certain information leans (as in left or right leaning).

Addendum 3/23: Ingmar emailed me to let me know Yahoo!’s Political Search Trends Tool is now available. His blog post provides more information.

Some of what Ingmar shares with us I will not be able to blog for reasons of privacy and confidentiality.

In some cases, they consider where the person lives and match a zip code to voting statistics to determine someone’s possible political views. Of course, how accurate is using a zip code to find common voting behavior and making that assumption stretch to that person? And, of course, how common is it for someone giving an online service their actual zip code? Ingmar jokes about using a webcam to check on people’s identities.

People following right leaning political blogs are more likely to be white males in their fifties than belonging to another demographic group.

The volume of blogs on the left is greater than the volume of blogs on the right.

They ascertain some searches’ political leanings based on the views of the source. If the blog is left leaning, then search results pointing to it are left leaning. Other leanings come about from the nature of the search itself: “Is Obama the worst president ever?” versus “What other presidents are as wonderful as Obama?”

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