Cool Tools: Google Politics & Elections

We’re under an hour away from the official start of the Iowa Caucus, and the Internet is rightly abuzz with the latest polls, news updates, reports, and elections statistics.

Election season is an exciting time for communication studies majors — all the more so for students at DC-area universities like American University. Consequently, it’s to be expected that AU SOC’ers are clamoring for online resources that capture the full range of today’s media-rich election coverage, from social media posts and liveblogging journalists to YouTube videos and keyword search trends.

Google Politics and Elections

This desire has not escaped the attention of Google, who took the opportunity this week to launch its new “Politics & Elections” site, dedicated to online news & search trends in relation to current elections in particular geographic areas (the current release has editions for the U.S. and Egypt).

At first glance, the Politics & Elections site doesn’t appear much different from other Google sites, specifically Google News. For example, both feature a “Home” with crisply displayed news stories collected from various online sources and grouped with “related news articles.”

Google Politics and Elections: Trends

However, the Politics & Elections site has several things Google News does not. To start with, it has a fascinating “Trends” section, that measures candidates’ popularity (or in certain cases notoriety) by tracking the frequency of their appearance in Google searches, mentions in Google News stories, and video views in YouTube.

Google Politics and Elections: Results

It also has a beautiful “Results” section — driven, of course, by Google Maps — where users can see a visualization of the election results as they are reported.

Google Politics and Elections: On the Ground

It even has a mesmerizing “On the Ground” section, which attempts to capture the local news perspective on candidates, with quotes, reports, and video grabbed from smaller news sources and projected onto another Google Map. This feature alone makes Google Politics & Elections a worthwhile and cutting-edge tool for communication students and news buffs.

In short, Politics & Elections is really trying to do something subtly new, while at the same time doing what Google has always done fairly-to-extremely well. The fact that the site also connects to Google+ and candidate YouTube videos is a lovely bonus — but the cool stuff is really in these three additional sections, at least in my opinion.

Of course this is not to say that Google Politics & Elections isn’t without its potential flaws or gaps. Assuredly it has them — the same as Google News, or Google maps, or Google Search (I am a librarian after all). But for today at least, I’m giving it a thumbs up. All in the spirit of the season, right?

Quick summary: this is one cool tool, kids. I hope you’ll check it out and share your thoughts.

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