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December 3, 2008

What Britney and Brittney Say about America

Once again, the top search term in America (at least according to the flawed lists compiled by search engines like Yahoo!) is "Britney Spears." What does that tell us about America? Not much that we don't already know. But a new site that mashes up data from the Google search API with information from the US Census is quite revealing.

If you type "Britney Spears" into the search bar at StateStats, you'll find that the relative rate of search queries is highest in her home state of Louisiana (the redder the state, the more popular the search term). You'll find the same thing if you type in a commonly misspelled version of her name: "Brittney Spears." That however, is where many of the commonalities between the two searcher profiles end. Searchers who add an extra "t" to Spears's first name are much more likely to come from states that voted for Bush in 2004 (the correlation goes from -.02 to +.71) and much less likely to come from Obama states (the correlation goes from -.02 to -.72). There are also a bunch of other differences. Here's how they stack up:

Britney Spears

"Britney Spears"

Brittney Spears

"Brittney Spears"

Of course, StateStats isn't just good for comparing the origins of people who can spell celebrities' names correctly to those who can't. It's also a good way to check in on the regional popularity of various hip-hop genres:

Vrunk vs Hyphy

And racial epithets:

Kike vs Nigger

As StateStats and Kottke point out, correlation doesn't mean causation, and any number of things can cause people to type stuff into a search engine. (Which still doesn't explain why "bukkake" is relatively popular in Alaska, but whatever.)

Got any other good terms that show regional differences? Let us know in the comments!







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