If ever there was a scientific study destined for the Ig Nobel awards, this is it. The Economist reports on new research finding that searches for internet porn increased in US states that backed the winning party in an election.
The study was inspired by the ‘challenge hypothesis’ which states that competition and dominance raise testosterone levels in males with an increased interest in mating following soon after.
To do this they first used a web service called WordTracker to identify the top ten search terms employed by people seeking pornography (“xvideos” was the politest among them). Then they asked a second service, Google Trends, to analyse how often those words were used in the week before and the week after an American election, broken down by state.
Their results, just published in Evolution and Human Behavior, were the same for all three of the elections they looked at—the 2004 and 2008 presidential contests, and the 2006 mid-terms (in which the Democrats made big gains in both houses of Congress). No matter which side won, searches for porn increased in states that had voted for the winners and decreased in those that had voted for the losers. The difference was not huge; it was a matter of one or two per cent. But it was consistent and statistically significant.
Less sophisticated people would make ‘hung like a donkey’ jokes at this point, but I’m far too refined as I’m sure regular readers are aware.
If you want to see the research without the fig leaf of the mainstream media, the full text of the scientific paper is available online as a pdf.