Here are the Google search volumes for a set of 4 terms (via Google Insights):
This speaks volumes about the things people care about, and don’t care about. A couple of caveats, however:
- While it’s true that a large number of searches for a term is a strong indication of public interest in a topic, the opposite is not necessarily true. You can care a lot about poverty or human rights without feeling the need to search the web and expand your knowledge on the topic. Instead you can help one day a week in a soup kitchen and never google the topic, and this probably shows that you care more about the poor than someone who’s writing his PhD about poverty and googles it daily.
- Second, while a search for terms like “Kim Kardashian” or “Justin Bieber” makes sense and provides immediately useable results, a search for terms like “poverty” and “human rights” does not. People searching the web in order to learn about those topics will probably do other, more complex searches, such as “poverty in the US“, “human rights violations in China” etc. However, I did compare searches for “Kim Kardashian”, “Justin Bieber”, “poverty in” and “human rights violations in” as well as a number of other variations, and the results are always the same (try it yourself).
More in the annals of heartlessness here.