The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has just released an analysis of ongoing public opinion polls that identifies "What Was -- and Wasn't on the Public's Mind" in 2006.
If you compare Pew's list of the top 10 public opinion stories of 2006 with the lists of top searches in Google News, Yahoo News, AOL News, or any of the other news search engines compiled by Enid Burns of ClickZ Stats, you'll see that some things on the public's mind prompted news searches and some some apparently didn't.
For example, Pew identifies "deepening gloom about Iraq" as one of "the strongest 2006 trends in public opinion." And Iraq is in the list of top 10 news searches at Yahoo News, AOL News, Microsoft Live, Ask.com and Lycos for 2006. But, Iraq is missing from the list of top 10 searches in Google News for the year.
Pew also says, "Gas prices dominated the public's attention -- as long as they were on the upswing." And "gas prices" was the top new topic at AOL News, as well as one of the top news searches at Ask.com and Lycos in 2006. But it didn't make the top 10 lists for Google News, Yahoo News, or Microsoft Live.
So, do top news stories drive top news searches? On some news search engines, it appears they do. On others, the jury is still out.
Maybe they are just below the cut off for the top 10 list. Or maybe the users of some news search engines are more interested in "hard news," while the users of other news search engines are more interested in "celebrity gossip."
Or, maybe I should stop speculating and just admit that Danny Sullivan over at Search Engline Land is right: The top 10 lists reported by some of the search engines are "heavily filtered."
According to Occam's razor, "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one."