Being unemployed, issues about immigration, and fear of crime will continue to be bigger hot-button publc concerns in 2020 than climate change if the results of 2019 spill into 2020. These major regional, national and intenational issues are of course interconnected to varying degrees and their weight on public consciousness and action can change depending on many things.
According to a variety of public opinion surveys the vast majority of people get their information from the news media with on-line media sources rapidly overtaking traditional television news (Pew Research Centre https://www.people-press.org/2011/01/04/internet-gains-on-television-as-publics-main-news-source/).
So, accepting that searching established and credible news media sources on the internet gives people what they want to know, how do key global issues rate against each other in the volume of searches? And will the results from 2019 dominate 2020? Here’s what we know from an analysis of the data found in Google Trends algorithms, a reliable data source that measures actvity of the web according to topics that are weghted on a scale of 100 (https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?q=climate%20change).
Let’s first compare publc news media searches of climate change, unemployment, immigration, and crime throughout the world. These are major issues affecting human emotions and action. The line chart below shows the results on a weighted average of 100 when those four important factors are measured over all of 2019.
The blue line is the news search about climate change, the red line unemployment, the mushy green line is interest in immigration-related news stories, and the dark blue line shows a comparison to internet media searches related to crime. This is the comparison of those issues on a global level. As it shows, questions about unemployment dominated the year with news searches about climate change peaking in September when Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations. The map below also from Google Trends shows a comparison by country, also color-coded according to results.
The color green is NOT internet news searches about climate change. It is about the public checking out news about crime within their country comapred to the other three mesaures. In Canada the weight of searches in 2019 was first about crime (37%), then immigration (32%), followed by climate change (25%), and then unemployment (6%). Climate change is colored blue. On the map only Sweden is blue, (no surprise).
Crime (a country in green) strongly tops the list of the four concerns in South Africa (60%), Brazil (54%), and India (53%).
The red color is for a country where uemployment was the most searched-for item on internet news sources in 2019 compared to the other three issues. Top of the list is France (57%), Mexico (52%), Spain (52%), and Indonesa (47%).
What does all this mean? As curious humans we need to know what’s happening, especially in the face of change that can impact our safety, security, and future. The internet provides us with a treasure chest of such information of varying accuracy. The evidence shows we turn to news meda sources to inform us, affecting our opinions, behaviors and even attitudes.
Will continued concerns about immigration, unemployment, and crime in many countries coalesce into a powerful demand for action from fearful and angry citizens? Will concerns about climate change actually mean something immediate, concrete and personal beyond the intelligentia, spirited student activists, and the bafflegab of academia?
We shall see.