.- U.S. Google search queries on Catholic topics have dropped âsignificantlyâ in volume from 2004 to 2011 and are âperhaps disturbing evidenceâ about the intersection of faith and new media, a researcher on Catholic demographics says.
âIs this cause to panic? Certainly not. Should we be concerned? Yes,â said Mark M. Gray, a research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in Georgetown.
Gray created graphs from Google search statistics which used the term âCatholicâ in them, such as âCatholic school,â âCatholic Church,â and âCatholic Charities.â The graphs show a continued linear decline downward since 2004. The search volume dipped below average in 2007.
âAmericans are significantly less likely to search for anything Catholic than they were seven years ago,â he said at Nineteen Sixty-four, the research blog of CARA.
Declines are also evident in the U.K., Australia, Germany, Italy and Brazil.
Gray said his graphs represent the behavior of âmillions of people (Catholic and non-Catholic) online.â
âThese arenât responses to polls or attitudes expressed in a focus group. These are real world observations. People are doing less of something and when that thing is âCatholicâ online we should wonder what the future is for Catholic new media.â
Analysis of the Google search patterns for queries about the NFL and the Fox television show âAmerican Idolâ show no generalized downturn, he added.
Gray said that Catholics appear to use the Internet to look up Mass times or to look up a Catholic charity after a disaster. They are more likely to say they have visited a website for their parish or a Catholic school than any other religious website, but these comprise only about five percent of all adults for a six month period.
Catholic search terms hit a low point each summer and peak in the weeks of Ash Wednesday and Christmas.