Big Bird is Google's gaffe of the year; Paul Ryan tops political search

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According to the search engine giant, 2012 was the year of Paul Ryan. The Wisconsin congressman and GOP vice presidential nominee jumped to the top of several of Google's trend lists, indicating high interest in the House Budget Committee chairman, especially as compared to last year. If Google is any indication, the high profile Ryan achieved in 2012 could be the most enduring legacy of the election.

Ryan is the only politician appearing on Google's list of people trending nationwide during 2012, a list that also includes Whitney Houston, Jeremy Lin, Kate Middleton and One Direction.

Ryan also tops the list of politicians trending in the U.S. for the year, beating search interest in Obama. The list of top U.S. politicians is the only list Obama appears on this year in Google's 2012 review, although "donate to Obama" tops donation searches and the election itself appears on lists of top events and search queries. 

Obama places third, behind Ryan and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), in the list of politicians searched for on Google. He topped similar lists of most-talked-about people on Twitter and Facebook this year, although those lists were not weighted to compare interest based on the previous year. Google's trend topics, broken down by subject, show "search queries with the highest amount of traffic over a sustained period in 2012 as compared to 2011," according to the search engine.

Obama also does not appear on any of Google's lists for most popular search terms worldwide for 2012, but neither does any other U.S. politician.

When it comes to the election, gaffes earned a category of their own on Google's review, and Big Bird tops the list.

Mitt Romney said during a presidential debate that he would de-fund PBS, even though he likes Big Bird. Obama's campaign characterized his remark as an attack on Big Bird in speeches and ads leading up to the November election.

Google's list of top gaffes also includes Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) comments on "legitimate rape," which played a role in his loss in the Missouri Senate race in November, Romney's comment from a secretly filmed fundraiser that "47 percent" of Americans who would never vote for him are dependent on the government, and Obama's comment that the "private sector is doing fine."

The presidential election this year was practically defined by this type of verbal gaffe, compounded by the ability for such slips to go viral on the Internet. Critics were happy to define the candidates by a negative interpretation of their words, and the candidates were subsequently forced to respond, thus encouraging the cycle.

Two other political topics — #SOPA and #eastwooding — appear on the worldwide list of most popular terms on Google's social platform, Google Plus.

Eastwooding is the trend started by actor Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention, when he lectured a chair he addressed as "President Obama" throughout his prime-time speech. 

There was high interest in SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) on Google this year, which makes sense due to the intense level of online opposition to the bill. "SOPA Debate" is No. 4 on the list of 10 events attracting the most interest worldwide. "What is SOPA" tops the "what is..." search list in the US.

Key online websites, including Google, Wikipedia and reddit, essentially helped kill the legislation earlier this year when they blacked out access as a "Stop SOPA" protest for a day, effectively spreading the word online that SOPA would hurt open and free Internet access.

Google's trending US politicians in 2012:

Paul Ryan
Ron Paul
Barack Obama
Rick Santorum
Mitt Romney
Newt Gingrich
Gary Johnson
Todd Akin
Joe Biden
Rick Perry

Trending election issues in 2012:

Abortion
Gay Marriage
Immigration
Gas Prices
Social Security
National Debt
Gun Control
Environment
Death Penalty
Tax Cuts

Trending political gaffes in 2012:

Big Bird
47 percent
Binders full of women
Airplane Windows
Legitimate Rape
Private sector is doing fine
More flexibility mic slip
President's Stick
Three Presidents intimately
Y'all back in chains