The Tar Heels and March Madness were the hottest Internet searches about North Carolina over the past week, not the state’s controversial anti-discrimination law, according to Google Trends data.
Worldwide, Internet interest in North Carolina is overwhelmingly centered on basketball and March Madness, not which bathrooms transgender people can use.
These findings are based on Google Trends search data accessed at noon on Wednesday – one week after N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, which critics say limits the ability of transgender people to use the appropriate bathroom for their gender identity.
Supporters of HB2 say the measure is necessary for privacy in restrooms and locker rooms and to protect women and children from potential predators. The law also restricts localities from coming up with their own minimum wages for employees or adding protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people to city- or county-level anti-discrimination ordinances.
Google updates its search trend data in real time, which means a spike in interest on a specific topic at any given moment can change the results of what is most popular.
The Google Trends data also shows that despite being second overall in popularity to basketball, House Bill 2 and transgender rights were the fastest growing North Carolina-related topics over the past week. Google classified several terms as “breakout” topics, including “North Carolina anti-discrimination law” and “North Carolina LGBT.”
A “breakout” search term means the interest in that topic has grown more than 5,000 percent over the past week. Several Tar Heel-related searches are also considered “breakout” topics by Google in the same time period.
Of the top 10 North Carolina-related searches between March 23 and March 30, only two appeared to be directly related to the new law. The rest were mostly about the University of North Carolina – the ACC tournament champions – and the team’s dominance over Notre Dame.
A search for North Carolina’s lottery is also in the top 10 from the past week.
Although the topic of transgender bathroom use hasn’t been the most popular search term related to North Carolina, it does dominate Google’s newsfeed. A Google search for the top news from the past week about North Carolina produces almost exclusively articles from around the country about HB2.