Elections, anxiety, unemployment, liquor, and Chinese food: Americans' top Google searches on Election Day reflect a nation on edge

  • Millions of Americans turned to Google for information on Election Day, and their searches reflect a nation on edge and divided amid the coronavirus pandemic, a reckoning on race, and a heated presidential contest.
  • More Americans searched for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday than President Donald Trump.
  • while unemployment, healthcare, and wages were the top-searched issues this past week, according to Google Trends data.
  • Terms like "anxiety," "breathing activities," "liquor store near me," and "fries near me" also reached all-time highs as people looked for ways to cope with uncertainty surrounding the election.
  • Some search trends were uniquely of interest to Americans this year, such as "postal voting," "vaccine," and "Supreme Court." 
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Google collects data on billions of searches per day, and while far from a perfect picture of reality, its search trends often reflect major cultural moments and sentiments, from celebrity deaths to major sporting and breaking news events.

Ahead of Election Day, millions of Americans turned to Google for information about the candidates, issues, and voting, and on Tuesday, Google's search trends offered a glimpse into the country's mood and top priorities.

While the top search globally was unsurprisingly "election," and the top trending search was "live election results," Americans also looked for ways to cope with uncertainty around the election, as a winner likely won't be declared for at least several days as states tally mail-in ballots.

Here's what Americans were most curious about this Election Day, and in the months and weeks leading up to it, according to Google Trends data.

On the candidates

Of the presidential candidates, Democratic nominee Joe Biden received the most searches Tuesday with 50% of candidate searches, trailed by President Donald Trump with 42%, Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen with 7%, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins with 1%. However, Americans' interest in Biden and Trump has flip-flopped consistently over the past few months.

On the issues

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, record joblessness, and federal stimulus set to expire for millions at the end of this year, Americans have been laser-focused on "unemployment," which has dominated Americans' searches not just this week but since mid-March when US joblessness claims topped 6.6 million. The second-most searched term in the past seven days: "wages."

Another top search interest for Americans this week was "health care," which has become a major flashpoint between Democrats, who want to build on the Affordable Care Act, and the Trump administration, which has sought to eliminate the program in court and cut state-level funding.

"Race" and "crime" also trended this week, highlighting the months of protests following George Floyd's death that are forcing America to reckon with ongoing systemic racism. In response, Trump has sought to portray himself as the law and order candidate and the protesters as threats to Americans' safety (despite the limited instances of violence and frequent uses of force by federal law enforcement).

Some topics were uniquely popular this year due to the unprecedented situation around voting during the pandemic. "Postal voting" generated more interest than in any past election as mail-in voting surged and more than 100 million Americans voted early. "Vaccine" generated more interest than in any year other than 2009, when the H1N1 "Swine flu" pandemic was in full force. Finally, "Supreme Court" received high interest starting in September when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, leading to Justice Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation last month. 

On coping with the election

With no winner expected to be declared Tuesday due to some states only just getting started tallying mail-in ballots — as required by those states' laws — Americans spent Tuesday evening trying to find ways to deal with their uncertainty.

After searches for "anxiety" and "breathing exercises" peaked in mid-October, "anxiety" broke its previous record on Tuesday, prompting the Google Trends team to remind Americans to check in with friends and family to look out for their well-being.

They also looked for comfort food — and drinks — searching most often for "pizza near me," followed by "Chinese food near me," "liquor store near me," "sushi near me," and "Mexican food near me." The Google Trends team also tweeted that "liquor store near me" and "fries near me" hit all-time highs.

 

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