What does Google Search tell us about Brexit?

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Close to 72% of the voters in the United Kingdom took part in yesterday’s historical referendum, with 52% of them voting to leave the European Union. The consequences of this decision will be enormous and far-reaching, which is why it’s a bit worrisome that Google Search queries like “what happens if we leave the EU” and “what is the EU” have been exploding in popularity among British users. What makes this especially worrisome is that a significant chunk of these queries were made AFTER the vote had taken place, which implies that a lot of people voted without really understanding what it was they were voting for, which isn’t exactly unusual. 

If you’re about to go vote on a historical referendum, you might want to check what your vote really means before you scribble a “yes” or “no” on that ballot. Judging from some of the latest trends of Google, quite a few Brits have done so only after Thursday’s Brexit referendum, in which the country voted to leave the European Union. According to Google Trends’ official Twitter account, there was a 250 percent spike for the “what happens if we leave the EU” query in Britain, shortly after the polls closed. The trend might indicate that a lot of voters didn’t really understand all the implications of the vote, but it could also be a reflection of voters’ surprise and uncertainty after the referendum results were publicly announced. Another search phrase that spiked post-vote, “Are we in or out of the EU,” indicates a degree of confusion amongst some British residents. Are they curious about the results of the referendum, or are they unsure whether the UK was ever a part of the European Union in the first place? Yes, Great Britain is still part of the European Union — for now. But while the referendum vote is not legally binding, the country is very likely to leave the Union at some point in the future.

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