Whoever thinks that Italian politics is trendy, please raise your hand. Very few, I suppose. After all, among “squirrels”, “wildcards” and “kingmakers”, the election of the new President of the Republic seems bound to be confined among professional politicians. However, there is a place where everything can be trendy, or even better, trending: Google.
During the past few weeks, several names have popped up in the run for the Quirinal Palace, the official residence of the Italian Head of State. People who wanted to know the candidates a little better, certainly, googled them in order to understand what kind of profile and personality is best suited for the presidency.
Zeta tried to quantify this Data with Google Trends, a tool that allows to verify whether there is a spike in the Google researches for a given topic. This article will examine search results about the names of the possible Italy’s new Head of State in the time frame between December 12th 2021 and January 12th 2022.
It is important to remember that Google Trends doesn’t reveal who the Italians want as the new President. We must also keep in mind that the citizens are not involved in the election process. Therefore, we can only know which name has generated the most traffic on the internet in a specific period, with an index going from zero (minimum interest) to one hundred (maximum interest).
Google Trends and the Italian President
If we type the name of Prime Minister Mario Draghi on google trends, we see that the interest for the head of the government has remained stable in the time span indicated above. The highest spikes appear in correspondence with the press conferences of December 22nd and January 10th that were greatly awaited. In regards to the upcoming election, this data doesn’t give enough insight. However, Google Trends shows us that in the same period the phrase “President of the Republic” is peaking as a related search for Draghi.
Equally interesting is the comparison with other two notable candidates: the current Head of State Sergio Mattarella and the ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Confronting the lines, we can see that current Prime Minister Mario Draghi keeps a constant advantage on the other two “competitors”, except when Berlusconi spiked a couple of times and Mattarella had an utter triumph during the New Year’s Eve speech.
Focusing on Berlusconi we see a peak of interest just before Christmas and a constant growth after the holidays due to him becoming sort of the “official candidate” of the right wing parties. Fascinating is the ensemble of related searches. On the list “Berlusconi Quirinale” and “Berlusconi President of the Republic” are very high on the list. But there are also a lot of un-institutional searches, such as “meme” and “joke”. This means that the election was not taken very seriously by the Italian population and as a matter of fact Berlusconi withdrew his candidacy two days before the elections. On the other hand, the associated query “Berlusconi great-grandfather” might have indicated concerns about the age of the candidate who just blew off 85 candles.
For the remaining candidates, had we compared their search volume with that of the other three, their lines would have been basically flat. That is because Google Trends operates only in relative terms, not in absolute ones. This already gives us a good idea of who are the candidates the public debate has focused on. Nonetheless it might turn out useful to take a look at the other politicians in the run.
Focusing on former prime minister Giuliano Amato, we see that there is a fluctuating course that goes from zero in some days to a peak on New Year’s Day. Senator Pier Ferdinando Casini, a former Christian Democrat, has a line that goes up and down, although always staying below Amato’s. Very little consideration is given for the EU Commissioner for Economy, Paolo Gentiloni and former Prime Minister and Former President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi. The latter has generated some movement on January 11th only due to an interview with the newspaper Repubblica just before the death of David Sassoli. There is a bit of concern about his age here as well.
At last, a comparison between the two women in the run: Marta Cartabia, current Minister of Justice, and Maria Elisabetta Casellati, current President of the Senate. Even if we see evidence of few notable spikes for Casellati, her line remains way behind Cartabia’s, who gives a good fight even to her male “opponents”. Furthermore, her line sky rocketed on January 3rd right after Dacia Maraini, a famous Italian writer, launched an appeal, signed by other female intellectuals and VIPs, asking for a woman at the Quirinale.
What people search on Wikipedia
The biggest limit of Google Trends is that it doesn’t tell us if the candidates are searched in regards to the Presidential Elections or for other reasons. However, let’s suppose that who is interested in Draghi’s press conference or in Berlusconi’s latest interview will click on the corresponding news; than we can also assume that who opens the Wikipedia page of a candidate wants to have a better knowledge of their history. The tool Pageviews shows how many times a certain page of the free encyclopaedia has been visited.
From the comparison Draghi-Berlusconi, we notice that the global search volume is more or less the same (262.000 views for Draghi and 258.000 for Berlusconi). Still, we must also note that while 58% of researches about the current Prime Minister came from Italy, this data lowers to 44% in the case of Silvio Berlusconi. So the latter’s name tickles the international fantasy more than the Prime Minister’s, especially in English speaking countries, followed by Germany and Russia (whilst for Draghi the third country is France). If this means that Berlusconi’s name abroad was synonymous with safety, like he claimed, or rather with danger, as his opponents say, we will never know.
The two most talked men are followed at a short distance by the outgoing President Mattarella (239.000 researches). The others are much further away and researches about them are mainly concentrated in Italy. The real surprise here is Minister Marta Cartabia that with 78.000 clicks takes the fourth spot, surpassing even Amato (59.000 researches) and distancing the other woman on the list, President Casellati (29.700). Even on Wikipedia Maraini’s appeal seems to have had an impact, since Cartabia’s name shot up starting from January 4th.
At the end of this analysis a question remains: who will be the next President of the Republic? Well, the answer will only come from the ballot box in the House of Parliament in Montecitorio, Rome, but it will be interesting to see how “trendy” the result will be.