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Migration sentiment through the prism of the internet

14 October 20150 comments

google-trends-logoAn analysis of internet search engine histories is providing fascinating and unprecedented insight into what people from various parts of the world think about migration.

According to Google, the world’s largest search engine, the European migrant influx has spiked higher interest in migration than there has been in over 10 years.

Google Trends recently created a page of collated data that shows exactly what countries are interested in the situation and in what ways they are interested.

The page includes charts, lists and maps that display exactly what kind of information people are searching for about migration.

This data gives a much deeper understanding of the world’s reaction to the movement of migrants and which countries migrants are interested in moving to.

Though Google isn’t the only search engine, it accounts for 70 per cent of all web searches, and 90-97 per cent of searches within Europe and so provides unique insights into the world’s population that have access to the internet.

According to Google Trends, internet users globally have been significantly more interested in the term ‘refugee’ rather than ‘migrant’ over the last two weeks. This change in terminology could indicate how the global population is viewing the situation.

As of September 3, the top European countries searching for migration ‘crisis’ topics are, in order, Macedonia, Portugal, Lithuania, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

Interestingly, the countries mainly experiencing the influx, such as Germany, Hungary, Austria and Greece, are not among those searching for migrant information the most. This could be because they are experiencing and understanding the situation first hand.

Through analysing exactly what type of questions Google users are asking, it’s possible to understand just how certain countries feel about the ‘crisis’ and how it is affecting them.

Being one of the countries most affected by the new migrants, Germany’s search history reveals the divide of citizens, with searches either centring on how to help, or the domestic employment repercussions.

Germany’s top searches “How to help with Syrian immigrants in Berlin,” “Where are refugees in Dusseldorf,” “Who is behind the wave of immigrants in Europe,” and “Labor market effects of migration,” show the depth of their understanding of what’s occurring.

Contrastingly, Russian searches show its distance from the situation, with top searches on the subject being, “What is migration”, “Why are migrants fleeing”, and “Why are migrants traveling to Europe?”

Data from Google users in Japan indicates their interest with the response from other countries, with questions like “Australian stance on migration,” “Is Saudi Arabia accepting refugees,” “Germany migrant crisis,” and “Why do Middle Eastern people migrate to Europe,” being the most asked.

Google Trends have also created an interactive map that allows users to see which countries are interested in migrating to particular G8 countries.

The map shows that Afghanistan is ranked number one out of 137 countries that searched for immigration to Germany over 2014 to 2015.

This kind of information allows us to understand how migrants and refugees view potential new homes in terms of desirability.

Though Google Trends may not be an entirely accurate portrayal of all the worlds’ citizens, it does provide a window into how much of the world views the European migrant influx and how those migrants view the world.

For the first time in history we are able to understand the detailed complexities of the different ways in which countries have responded to the global situation.

The use of this data could even have an effect on how the public and leaders react to the ‘crises’ through self-knowledge.


Ruby Brown
AMES Australia Staff Writer