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Rwandan web searchers have been more likely to Google ‘Obama’ than American counterparts

November 6, 2012  »  WebNo Comment

In light of today’s U.S. presidential elections, we decided to look at African Google search trends for each of the two main candidates. The unsurprising hypothesis and conclusion: overwhelming African interest for President Obama, considering his late father was born in the village of Kogelo, Kenya.

Certainly the reason for the African interest is Obama’s Kenyan roots. Awareness of him in Africa is simply much higher than that of Mitt Romney, for example. Although reports from Kenya cite less enthusiasm for Obama than in 2008, Kenyans (and most East Africans) still overwhelmingly support Obama. And for good reason: he has improved Sub-Saharan African sentiment toward America. As The New York Times points out:

For decades around these parts, it did not really matter who was president of the United States. The policies at the State Department essentially remained the same whether a Democrat or Republican was in charge.”

Google Trends analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how many searches have been done for individual terms, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. In other words, this analysis indicates the likelihood of a random user to search for a particular search term from a certain location at a certain time. In this case, the terms are simply the last names of the two main U.S. presidential candidates: ‘obama’ for Barack Obama and ‘romney’ for Mitt Romney.

Global Google web search interest in the terms ‘obama’ and ‘romney’, past 90 days:

Note the prevalence of darker blue shaded African countries on the left (Obama).


Click to enlarge.

Barack Obama:

Of all countries in the world, Rwandan Google search users have been the most likely to search for the term ‘obama’ than Googlers in any other nation within the past 90 days. Amazingly, within this period, there have been a larger share of searches for ‘obama’ in Rwanda than in the United States. Over the past 30 days, Uganda is only slightly behind the U.S. in search share (with Kenya third). One reason has been consistency: the share of U.S. searches for ‘obama’ has been somewhat erratic.

Still, much of the online search interest in Barack Obama lies in the state of the Internet in these nations compared with the United States (or European nations, for that matter). In most of Africa, there is less diversity of web searches (ie. short tail instead of more advanced long tail) and those using Google tend to better balance searches for news and entertainment. After all, innovators, early adopters, and early majority types are still the dominant web users in most African cities.

African Interest in Barack Obama is high
Note: Numbers represent search volume relative to the highest point on the map which is always 100.

Mitt Romney:

Relative global search interest for Romney lags that of Obama by far. Searches for Romney are much more popular in the United States than in other nations (unlike how ‘obama’ searches in Rwanda out index those from the U.S.). Web searches from East African nations, however, indicate fair interest in Mitt Romney when compared with other nations.

Interest in Mitt Romney is more limited to the U.S.


Note: Numbers represent search volume relative to the highest point on the map which is always 100.

Kenya vs. United States

On a per-search basis, Kenyan interest in Obama has exceeded that of American Google searchers – especially during the Democratic National Convention:

A similar trend can be seen for searches for ‘obama’ and ‘romney’:

Note: The African data seems to represent urban areas and search volume is substantially lower than in the United States.