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Analysis of billions of internet searches shows Germany is the most forward-looking country

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Research using data from Google has found that Germany has cast aside its stereotype to be the most optimistic nation.

A new analysis of more than 45 billion Google queries found that in 2012 Germany searched for the future on the internet more than any other country. Neighbours Switzerland finished second with France in fifth behind Japan and the UK. (see links below to the table).

The Future-Orientation Index has been put together by Warwick Business School Associate Professor Tobias Preis and Dr Helen Susannah Moat, of University College London. They analysed billions of Google logs from 2012 from 45 different countries to calculate the ratio of the volume of searches for ‘2013’ to the volume of searches for ‘2011’.

Previous research using this search data has shown that countries with internet users who search for more information about the future tend to have a higher per-capita GDP (Preis, Moat, Bishop and Stanley, 2012).

The Future-Orientation Index for 2012 shows Germany as the nation most focused on the future, with Japan second, Switzerland third and the UK fourth. At the bottom of the rankings are Pakistan, Vietnam and Kazakhstan.

In 2011 the UK was the nation most focused on 2012 in comparison to 2010, as the country prepared for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Poland and Ukraine also ranked higher in 2011, in the lead up to their joint hosting of the European Football Championships in 2012, but fell 11 and 13 places each in 2012. Germany’s rise up the charts in 2012 may be driven by a focus on their upcoming general elections, scheduled for this year.

Nigeria was the biggest climber in 2012, moving up 15 places and despite its economy entering its fifth recession in 15 years, Japan also made a big leap up the Future-Orientation Index, rising nine to third.

Dr Preis, Associate Professor of Behavioural Science and Finance at Warwick Business School, said: “In general we find a strong tendency for countries in which Google users enquire more about the future to exhibit a larger per capita GDP. There seems to be a relationship with the economic success of a country and the information seeking behaviour of its citizens online.”

Dr Moat from UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering added: “We see two leading explanations for this relationship between search activity and GDP. Firstly, these findings may reflect international differences in attention to the future and the past, where a focus on the future supports economic success. Secondly, these findings may reflect international differences in the type of information sought online, perhaps due to economic influences on available Internet infrastructure”.

Preis and Moat introduced the Future-Orientation Index together with their colleagues Prof Steven R. Bishop (UCL) and Prof H Eugene Stanley (Boston University) in 2012, in a paper published in Scientific Reports (http://www.nature.com/srep/2012/120405/srep00350/full/srep00350.html).

To download a copy of the 2012 Future Orientation Index click on this link http://www.wbs.ac.uk/downloads/press/2012-ranking.jpeg

To download a copy of the 2011 Future Orientation Index click on this link http://www.wbs.ac.uk/downloads/press/2011-ranking.jpeg

To download a copy of the 2012 Future Orientation Index world map click on this link http://www.wbs.ac.uk/downloads/press/2012-map.jpeg

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