Comparing News And Google Trends Search Volume For California Covid-19 Mitigation Strategies

Using a forthcoming extended version of the geographic database underlying the GEO 2.0 API, we wanted to explore how news mentions of Covid-19 mitigation strategies in California since the start of this year compared with Google Trends search volume for California web users. We compiled every mention of a geographic location from each news article monitored by GDELT since Jan. 1, 2020 and limited to just mentions of locations in California published in English language press. We then compiled a timeline of how many times each California location was mentioned alongside the given term by day and plotted its Z-Score (standard deviations from mean) against the Z-Score of Google Trends data for the same search for California. If an article mentioned the term in the context of multiple locations in California or the same location multiple times, each mention was counted separately here. In each case, the publication date was converted to Los Angeles time regardless of where it was originally published.

Interestingly, news and search volume track one another quite well and most show a steady tapering off of media and public attention, though the raw search volume for social distancing has already increased over time, while quarantine searches remain highly elevated and shelter in place is still quite high, while lockdowns and stay at home have faded. Interestingly, searches for "coronavirus" have steadily trended linearly downward since March 16, while searches for "covid" have steadily increased since the 8th, suggesting a change in terminology.


The timeline below plots news mentions of "Coronavirus" or "Covid-19" against searches for "coronavirus." The two track each other relatively well, though from the last week of Feb through early March, search was slow to pick up compared with news.


Comparing "lockdown*" with searches for "lockdown," news initially covered it, then both news and searches soared, but searches went vertical whereas news increased at a slightly lower slope.


Quarantine is unusual in that news coverage peaked almost a week before searches and disappeared before searches began to search.

Shelter In Place

Both news and searches take off on the same day, though searches climb vertically while news takes an extra day, but overall the two track each other extraordinarily closely.

Social Distancing

While news and searches track each other closely, news peaks a week before search.

Stay At Home

Here news increases for several days before both surge vertically on March 20th, though news has remained elevated, while searches fell quickly.