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20 Years of Top Trending Google Searches

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Infographic showing images of search trends on Google over the past 20 years

20 Years of Top Trending Google Searches

For decades, Google search has been a go-to source for many when looking up directions, keeping up with the news, or seeking information on new and unfamiliar topics.

Today, Google processes about 3.5 billion searches per day. Because of its dominant market share, Google holds a vast archive of keyword searches that, when analyzed, provide an interesting glimpse into the key themes that have captured the world’s attention over the years.

This graphic, using data from Google Trends, goes back 20 years and highlights some of the top keyword searches since 2001.

Our editorial team dug through hundreds of top trending search terms from global and U.S. data and hand-selected their top picks, which are featured in the graphic above.

Trending vs. Volume

Before diving in, it’s worth emphasizing how top trending searches differ from popular searches, which are measured by sheer volume.

Trending searches are terms that have recently spiked in popularity. They focus on growth rather than total volume, and in this dataset, trending terms gauge year-over-year growth.

A good example is Donald Trump, who popped up in the news cycle during the 2016 presidential campaign. After the election, interest in Trump remained high. But his name doesn’t pop up on the Google trends list after 2017, since by that point, search volume for Trump had plateaued.

What are the most popular Google search terms, by volume? To be honest, they’re slightly less interesting than the top trending searches — YouTube is number one, followed by Facebook, then WhatsApp web.

The Globalization of Search Trends

The people and topics featured in Google’s top trends lists evolves as time goes on, reflecting broader adoption of the internet (and Google Search) around the world over time. Early themes are tied to mainstream U.S. pop culture and tech trends.

As time goes on, social media and smartphone adoption increase the granularity and volume of searches, resulting in top trends that are more participatory, diverse, and global in nature.

One final variable to keep in mind is that Google itself began to share more detailed search highlights with each passing year.

Two Decades of Google Searches: Macro Insights

Now that we’ve explained what trending searches actually measure, let’s dig into some of the key themes that have emerged over the last two decades of Google searches.

① People Love Sports

Over the last 20 years, sports have remained a continuous trend.

Every four years, the World Cup shows up as a top trending keyword across the globe. The Olympics also makes a regular appearance, along with Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps and McKayla Maroney.

Although the U.S. dominates the list, particularly when it comes to athletes, there’s still a good variety of international sports that go viral, especially as time goes on. In the last two years, cricket, rugby, and soccer have all made the top five trending lists.

② The Emergence of Celebrity 2.0

Over time, you can also see a transition from the conventional celebrity to celebrity 2.0, also known as the social media celebrity. 

In the early 2000s, pop culture icons like Britney Spears, Eminem, and Jennifer Lopez flooded the trending searches, and traditional media forms like TV shows and Movies dominated the mass media categories.  

But by 2011, YouTube stars like Rebecca Black started to make their way on the trending search lists. And in 2014, Meme emerged as a top trending category.

This transition nods to a larger shift in media, as digital has gradually overtaken traditional media as the dominant form of entertainment.

③ Natural Disasters are Top of Mind

Natural Disasters are a key trend throughout this data set as well.

Hurricanes are a particularly trendy word, showing up almost half the time—in eight of the 20 years. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ranked second in the most searched category across the globe.

It continued to gain global attention—by 2006, Hurricane Katrina was still in the top five trending news searches.

Dig Deeper into Trending Google Searches

Our team enjoyed sifting through 20 years of Google data, and we hope you enjoyed this blast from the past too. If you’d like to dive deeper, you can explore Google’s full dataset here.

Happy searching.

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Politics

How Do Democrats and Republicans Feel About Certain U.S. Industries?

A survey looked at U.S. industry favorability across political lines, showing where Democrats and Republicans are divided over the economy.

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A cropped chart with the percentage of Democrats and Republicans that found specific U.S. industries "favorable."

Industry Favorability, by Political Party

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Much and more has been written, in the last decade particularly, about the U.S. political sphere becoming increasingly polarized. The two main parties—Democrats and Republicans—have clashed over how to run the economy, as well as on key social issues.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Democrat and Republican voters are also divided on various U.S. industries, per a YouGov poll conducted in 2022.

Between November 7-9th of that year, the market research firm polled 1,000 adult Americans, (sampled to represent prevailing demographic, racial, and political-party-affiliation trends in the country) on their opinions on 39 industries. They asked:

“Generally speaking, do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the following industry?” — YouGov Poll.

In this chart we visualize the percentage with a favorable view of an industry minus those with unfavorable view, categorized by current voter status.

A higher percentage means more Democrats or Republicans rated the industry as favorable, and vice-versa. Negative percentages mean more respondents responded unfavorably.

Democrats vs. Republicans on Industry Favorability

From a glance, it’s immediately noticeable that quite a few industries have divided Democrats and Republics quite severely.

For example, of the sampled Democrats, a net 45%, found Higher Education “favorable.” This is compared to 0% on the Republican side, which means an equal number found the industry favorable and unfavorable.

Here’s the full list of net favorable responses from Democrats and Republicans per industry.

IndustryDemocrat Net
Favorability
Republican Net
Favorability
Agriculture44%55%
Trucking27%55%
Restaurant53%54%
Manufacturing27%53%
Construction23%49%
Dairy45%46%
Higher education45%0%
Technology44%36%
Food manufacturing15%37%
Transportation27%37%
Railroad37%35%
Mining-3%36%
Automotive19%36%
Grocery35%22%
Hotels30%35%
Textiles24%34%
Entertainment34%-17%
Shipping24%33%
Retail31%31%
Book publishing30%29%
Alcohol23%16%
Television22%3%
Waste management15%22%
Education services21%-16%
Wireless carriers19%19%
Broadcasting17%-30%
News media17%-57%
Airlines11%3%
Oil and gas-28%7%
Real-estate-2%6%
Utilities2%6%
Health care3%4%
Fashion4%-6%
Cable-12%3%
Finance2%-2%
Professional sports1%-2%
Insurance-12%-14%
Pharmaceutical-18%-14%
Tobacco-44%-27%

The other few immediately noticeable disparities in favorability include:

  • Mining and Oil and Gas, (more Republicans in favor),
  • Entertainment, Education Services, and News Media (more Democrats in favor).

Tellingly, the larger social and political concerns at play are influencing Democrat and Republican opinions about these parts of the economy.

For example Pew Research pointed out Republicans are dissatisfied with universities for a number of reasons: worries about constraints on free speech, campus “culture wars,” and professors bringing their politics into the classroom.

In contrast, Democrats’ criticisms of higher education revolved around tuition costs and the quality of education offered.

On a more recent note, Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, a big Harvard donor, pulled funding after criticizing universities for educating “whiny snowflakes.” In October, donors to the University of Pennsylvania withdrew their support, upset with the university’s response to the October 7th attacks and subsequent war in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the reasons for differences over media favorability are more obvious. Commentators say being “anti-media” is now part of the larger Republican leadership identity, and in turn, is trickling down to their voters. Pew Research also found that Republicans are less likely to trust the news if it comes from a “mainstream” source.

But these are industries that are already adjacent to the larger political sphere. What about the others?

U.S. Politics and the Climate Crisis

The disparity over how the Oil & Gas and Mining industries are viewed is a reflection, again, of American politics and the partisan divide around the climate crisis and whether there’s a noticeable impact from human activity.

Both industries contribute heavily to carbon emissions, and Democrat lawmakers have previously urged the Biden transition to start planning for the end of fossil-fuel reliance.

Meanwhile, former President Trump, for example, has previously called global warming “a hoax” but later reversed course, clarifying that he didn’t know if it was “man-made.”

When removing the climate context, and related environmental degradation, both industries usually pay high wages and produce materials critical to many other parts of the economy, including the strategic metals needed for the energy transition.

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