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Google or the Polls


On Friday, Google Managing Policy Counsel Pablo Chavez wrote about the initial results of Indonesia’s Presidential election on the Google Global Policy Blog.  Early polling data indicated that incumbent SBY had been re-elected, but this was no surprise.  Polls, and putative on-the-ground opinion was that he would win.  Surprising, however, were the subsequent results of opposition contender Megawati and Jusuf Kalla.  As discussed in today’s Internet & Democracy piece entitled “Google: Tomorrow’s Silicon (Not Crystal) Ball,” Google –not the pollsters– got election ordering correct.  Polling indicated that Jusuf Kalla would lead Megawati.  Internet search analytics –albeit referencing only 5% of Indonesia’s 240 million citizens– proved to be more accurate in predicting electoral outcome.  In lead-up weeks, Google proffered swelling numbers on SBY, and trending on Mega that far surpassed Jusuf Kalla.  Though undoubtedly not perfect, with the advent of greater Internet penetration this predictive role will grow.

I’ve outlined such predictions in a July 16, 2009 Jakarta Globe Op-Ed, “In the Future, Crystal Balls will be all Silicon,” a Creative Commons re-publication of my Internet & Democracy post. In a subsequent article, “Understanding Election Twitter,” for the Carnegie Council’s Policy Innovations magazine, I highlight the importance in understanding domestic political institutions. Only when being informed translates into being influential does it matter for politics.

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