One year ago today, as election returns came in, some watchers turned to Yelp. Many of them were looking for immigration lawyers or cannabis clinics. Searches for both categories — and related cannabis categories — spiked just as it became clear that Americans had elected a president who campaigned on a platform of limiting immigration, and that voters in eight states had approved ballot measures to expand access to cannabis.
Yelp search data, in aggregate, shows the collective intent of users around the U.S. Each of the millions of daily searches on Yelp is tagged with a timestamp, a location and a business category. I took a closer look at U.S. searches in the hours before and after election results came in, using 11 p.m. ET as a reference point for the before-and-after analysis. (That’s when polls closed on the West Coast of the U.S.; the Associated Press called Florida for Donald Trump at 10:50 p.m. ET, establishing a nearly insurmountable Electoral College lead for him.)
In the hours before 11 p.m. ET on Election Night, searches for immigration lawyers, cannabis clinics, cannabis referrals and cannabis tours were all at their usual levels (based on time of day, day of week and overall search volume). Immediately after, they started spiking. They remained elevated for the next two days.
The spikes in cannabis searches were particularly big in the states where marijuana-access measures passed.
Searches for immigration lawyers have continued to spike since President Trump’s inauguration, sometimes on or around announcements of measures to limit immigration from specific countries, also referred to as travel bans.
In a year full of news, much of it driven by the election, Yelp users have shown increasing interest in giving — or, more specifically, in giving blood. Searches for the blood donation category have steadily increased over the last 12 months, including elevated levels for National Blood Donor Month in January, with spikes after a series of tragedies in the last few months that left many people injured: the Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in September, and the October mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and injured more than 500 others. People nationwide showed interest in helping after those tragedies. The spikes were larger closer to the places of greatest need.
People turn to Yelp to find a great restaurant, bar or plumber. They also turn to us when the news affects their lives and one of the thousands of business categories on Yelp can help them — perhaps never more than in the 12 months since last year’s election.
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