In an analysis in the Washington Post, political scientist Matt Buehler argues that the Arab Spring was not just a spontaneous eruption of youth protests: «labour unrest [...] foreshadowed the popular mobilization of youth activists of the Arab blogosphere». In turn, these youth mobilisations created new opportunities for unions.
He illustrates this with an analysis of events in Morocco. Even before the Arab Spring reached the country and culminated in large protests in February 2011, the country had seen trade union protests sparked by the inequality exacerbated by neoliberal reforms. The combination of union and youth protests forced the regime to make concessions, resulting, among other things, in substantial wage and pension increases.
Results from a simple search on Google Trends seem largely consistent with Buehler’s finding that trade union protests preceded the 20 February mobilisation. Searches for trade union names started to rise in 2008 and 2009, that is before the rise in searches for AMDH, a human rights organisation that played a key role in the 20 February protests. Similarly, searches for grève (strike) peaked in 2008 and 2009, whereas searches for manifestation (march / demonstration) and sit in (the latter not shown in the graph) didn’t really start to rise until the end of 2010. It’s also interesting to note that interest in union-related search terms surged again following the February protests.
Exporting Google Trends data
Google Trends has a «download as csv» option which seems handy enough, but it has some issues. For one thing, if you try to export data on multiple search terms, it often seems to omit data for one of the search terms, even if all search terms were correctly shown on screen. I have absolutely no clue what this is about.
A solution might be to download data for each search term separately. A drawback is that data would then be normalised on a per search term basis (i.e., for each term the highest value would be set at 100). This means that it would no longer be possible to compare volume across search terms, but it would still be possible to compare patterns.
However, you then run into the problem that Google will export the data on a per month basis if volume is low and on a per week basis if volume is higher. I don’t understand why Google doesn’t offer the possibility to download all data on a per month basis so you can more easily compare. A hack is suggested here, but I couldn’t get it to work.