Using Google data to understand governments’ approval in Latin America
This paper studies the potential drivers of governments’ approval rates in 18 Latin
American countries using Internet search query data from Google Trends and traditional
data sources. It employs monthly panel data between January 2006 and December 2015.
The analysis tests several specifications including traditional explanatory variables
of governments’ approval rates – i.e. inflation, unemployment rate, GDP growth, output
gap – and subjective explanatory variables – e.g. perception of corruption and insecurity.
For the latter, it uses Internet search query data to proxy citizens’ main social
concerns, which are expected to drive governments’ approval rates. The results show
that the perception of corruption and insecurity, and complaints about public services
have a statistically significant association with governments’ approval rates. This
paper also discusses the potential of Internet search query data as a tool for policy
makers to understand better citizens’ perceptions, since it provides highly anonymous
and high-frequency series in real-time.