The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic abruptly changed the life of European citizens. Starting from the first recorded EU hotbed in Northern Italy on February 20th, the virus rapidly spread across several EU countries. In this context, Google searches by EU citizens provide timely insights about Europeans’ concerns. As about 90% of EU-27 households have home internet access and the number of internet-connected mobile devices is rapidly increasing, Google searches provide a rather detailed picture of the concerns of the whole EU population.
Against this background, the JRC created a set of indicators to track the evolution over time of Europeans’ worries and reactions related to three key domains: Health, Economy and Social Isolation. While worries are defined as the instances that might cause difficulties to the EU citizens, reactions include actions and behaviours enacted to cope with the consequences of the pandemic. Each indicator is the result of the aggregation of several topics (groups of keywords queried on Google Search), allowing detailed analyses of different phenomena that are of paramount importance not only in the midst of the pandemic but also in its aftermath.
Google Trends provides access to the search requests made to the Google search engine by its users. In particular, Google Trends contains a random sample representative of all queries that Google handles daily.
Search results are then normalized to the time and location of a query. By time range (daily, weekly or monthly) and geography (country or NUTS-2 level) each data point is divided by the total searches to obtain relative popularity. The resulting numbers are then scaled on a range of 0 to 100 based on a query’s proportion to all searches on all queries.
In addition, google returns also top related searches and topics. Top searches are terms that are most frequently searched with the term users enters in the same search session within the chosen category and geography. Topics, which have started being available starting in late 2013 in the US and in the following years in EU countries, are instead aggregations of different queries related that could be assigned to a particular topic. Aggregation is done by Google using semantic integration algorithms in the context of the Google knowledge graph . This approach has a few advantages over the usage of queries.
First, it is possible to easily use topics to perform a cross-country analysis, whereas the same does not apply with keywords even if they are correctly translated. Evidence shows that search terms related to the same topic vary across countries due to cultural differences. Further, searches linked to topics might vary across time. This is particularly true for searches related to unemployment, which depends on the name and the seasonality of the particular policy which is in place in any given country. Finally, all queries broadly related to a topic are linked to the given topics independently from the spelling and wording of the query.
Six composite indicators observe EU citizens’ concern on three thematic areas (Health, Economy and Social Isolations), described from two points of view: citizens’ Worries and Reactions. As a consequence, the six composite indicators offer two alternative narrative streams: the observation of a thematic area in its completeness or the comparison between the passive and active attitude of citizens toward the crisis.
All these composite indicators are measured daily, and they are defined as the arithmetic average of two pillars. Each pillar is the result of the arithmetic average among two to six topics, as described in the Figure below.
The first domain is related to Health, since following the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, Europeans’ interest in health-related topics became particularly high. It encompasses worries for Physical and Mental health, and it captures changes in lifestyle and habits (reactions), such as medical equipment (e.g., searches for dust masks and sanitizers) and self-care (such as physical exercises and nutrition).
The second domain encompasses evolutions in the volume of searches capturing both worries and reactions related to the Economy. Among worries, terms related to the economic effects of the lockdown have been included, focusing on the consequences for Governments as well as for Firms and Individuals. Reactions, on the other hand, capture how citizens are trying to get through the crisis either by looking at how to reduce their expenditure or with the help of governments’ interventions.
A domain related to Social isolation encompasses evolutions in the volume of searches capturing both topics related to Travel and Quarantine expectations (worries) and topics describing how citizens are coping with restrictive measures, in terms of Work and Private life (reactions). Looking at how citizens have been adapting to life at home, the analysis considers both online activities and offline activities.
Real-time insights on EU citizen's concerns
Two interactive visualisations allow to navigate the Google searches data at different aggregation and geographical levels providing near real-time insights on EU citizens' concerns.
The 'Interests trend' shows the trend of interest in the three domains from January 2020 to the last week (data are updated every Wednesday afternoon).
The 'Interests map' allows to navigate into data at different aggregation levels (domains, indicators or topics) exploring both data at EU27 and national level through maps and time series.
Week 01 | 01-07 May 2020
The first introductory issue presents first timely insights using EU citizens’ Google searches to explore their concerns, in relation to three main topics (health, economy and social isolation) in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.
Week 02 | 08-14 May 2020
The second issue explores European citizens' concerns focusing on the four largest EU countries (Germany, Italy, France and Spain).
Week 03 | 15-22 May 2020
Following the EC Communication ‘Tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond’ of the 13th of May, the third issue focuses on tourism.
Week 04 | 23-29 May 2020
The fourth issue presents a special focus on pandemic-related worries in EU countries.
Week 05 | 12 June 2020
This week the report explores how topics related to the Green Deal (such as pollution, electric cars and transport) interact with the pandemic
Week 06 | 19 June 2020
This issue focuses on how EU citizens leisure activities are evolving in this new normal phase.
Week 07 | 26 June 2020
This week the report explores how people are adapting to the ‘new normal’.
Week 08 | 03 July 2020
This week the report explores citizens’ solidarity during lockdowns.
Week 09 | 24 July 2020
Analysing the evolution of EU citizens’ Google searches provides timely insights on their concerns in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. This week the report explores changes in citizens’ holiday preferences.
Week 10 | 30 September 2020
This week the report presents a special focus on school and education.
Marco COLAGROSSI firstname.lastname@example.org
Valentina ALBERTI email@example.com
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