People Google Fewer Luxuries, More Recipes, Train Schedules

Google queries show John McCain pulling close to Barack Obama.

Sept. 23, 2008 — -- To Google is to ask a question, and the online query master is asked for the answer to hundreds of millions of inquiries every day.

That has made Google a unique indicator of what's on the country's mind, and judging by what is being Googled these days, the economy is at the top of the list.

Inquiries about luxury items are being replaced with questions about more mundane and cheaper alternatives.

"For items like luxury goods, like diamonds, queries are down more recently and there's been more queries for jobs, mortgages and refinancing," Marissa Mayer, Google vice president of Search Products and User Experience, told "Good Morning America" in an exclusive interview today at the Google campus in California.

Instead of luxury cars and exotic trips, the number of queries about public transportation, like the Amtrak rail system, are up.

The Google search for the perfect restaurant is down. Questions about recipes, however, are up, Mayer told "GMA."

Politics has also boomed on Google this political season, and how people search for information about the election or the candidates can give a good sense of the trend in the campaign. Google query trends have indicated that after months in which Barack Obama was leading in searches, the race between Obama and John McCain has tightened up.

"It looks like Obama is still ahead, but you can tell that it's a close race," Mayer said.

Google queries can also be narrowed down to a community to determine local concerns. For instance, when the Google focus is put on Houston, one of the top searches is for ways to help recover from a hurricane. The Texas city was recently ravaged by Hurricane Ike.

Mayer has been with Google since its first days 10 years ago and is in charge of developing new features on the Web site.

What's on the mind of America or one of its regions is as simple as a graph on Google.

"We have a great site called that actually allows you to search people's searches," Mayer told "GMA." "So you can actually see how things are changing."