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Google's Insights for Search: A Note Evaluating the Use of Search Engine Data in Social Research


  • *Direct correspondence to Christopher P. Scheitle, 211 Oswald Tower, Department of Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802 〈〉. The author will share the data and coding information utilized here with those wishing to replicate the research. The author thanks Roger Finke, John McCarthy, Chris Bader, and Buster Smith for comments on previous versions of this article.


Objective. This research note presents and assesses the potential for Google's Insights for Search tool for use in social science research.

Methods. Measures of social phenomena across time and across ecological units produced from search engine data are compared with existing data sources.

Results. The comparisons show that the search engine data correspond quite closely with existing measures of issue salience and religious adherence.

Conclusions. Given its relative lack of cost both in terms of money and labor, its flexibility, and its correspondence to other data, social scientists should consider the Insights for Search tool for research purposes.