Sunday, September 11, 2011

Google Says: Americans More Patriotic Since 9/11

America is a patriotic nation. Notwithstanding the definite upsurge in the period following 9/11/2001 ten years ago, overall the level of American patriotism tends to remain remarkably consistent. Polls support this statement, as reported in a Forbes article last year:

Patriotic attitudes are generally very stable. In a question Gallup asked in January 2001, 87% said they were "extremely" or "very" proud to be American. When Pew repeated the identical question last year, 86% gave that response. In 2001 and 2009, only 1% said they were "not at all proud." The 9/11 tragedy produced more overt displays of patriotism and heightened sentiment, but responses soon returned to the norm.

So how did 9/11 impact American patriotism? Back in 2005, an MSNBC article reported the results of a poll conducted by the Roper Reports unit of NOP World. NOP’s vice president of consumer trends was quoted as saying:

“We tracked patriotism, spirituality and religion, and giving to charities and volunteerism right after 9/11,” Silvers said. “All three popped up. Within about nine months, volunteering was down and so was religion, but what has stayed with us is patriotism, and it’s obviously fueled by a couple of things. The shift point was 9/11.”

As are most of the folks working at my BI software development company (SiSense), I could be called obsessed when it comes to applying business intelligence methodologies to anything. In this spirit, I automatically started thinking about how I might be able to uncover some trends showing if and how actual data might support the articles and surveys I saw about American patriotism and 9/11, as the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies approached.

I decided to take a look at Google search data and see if and how online searches reflect the “patriotism effects” of 9/11 in America. After looking around and reading some more, I came up with two searches to check out: flag sales and volunteering.

What led me to check out flag sales? I saw a recent article that says that, “One response to the catastrophic events of Sept. 11, 2001, came quickly in a traditionally American way -- flag sales soared.” The article quotes the president of Gettysburg Flag Works in New York State as saying, “‘On 9/11, 12, 13, 14, we sold out everything that was red, white and blue. We had lines out the door,’ recalled Mike Cronin, president of Gettysburg Flag Works. “I was in flag shock for a couple of weeks.’”

Not surprisingly, a sharp increase in searches related to flag sales can be seen in Google search data in the month of September 2001. For the years following 2001, however, searches for flag sales were relatively flat.

 Flags Sales 2001

 Flags Sales 2007

Interestingly, though, this year’s tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks seems to be resonating more with Americans than on previous anniversaries: flag sale searches increased significantly over the past few weeks.

 Flags Sales 2011

When I went looking for articles which might discuss the increase in community service and volunteering among Americans, I didn’t find much. However, a look at Google search data for “volunteer USA” shows an interesting consistency with what I saw for flag sales searches: significant spikes in searches after the original 9/11 and then again this year.

US Volunteers 2001

US Volunteers 2009 

US Volunteers 2011

From the graphs above it is quite clear that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 has a great impact on patriotism, even more so than years before.

In any case, it’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since thousands of Americans died on 9/11. Hopefully, America is stronger as a country for it and its people are stronger as a nation. In case you feel like reading more about how patriotism has increased in the US since 9/11/01, I leave you with the following article, published this week in a Florida newspaper, which talks about American patriotism (and the difficulty in measuring it with surveys): Since 9/11: Patriotism - Ten years after the deadliest terrorist attack inside the United States, love of country remains as strong as ever, if not a little stronger.

By: Roi Hildesheimer | The ElastiCube Chronicles - Business Intelligence Blog
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