In 2022, Americans turned to Google to find local answers that reflect some of this year’s largest national conversations about the economy, public health and the midterm elections, according to the latest “Year in Search” report, an annual review of people, places and things that piqued internet users’ interests and drew the most attention online over the course of 2022.
The report, released earlier this month, highlights trending topics across a number of key categories, including news, celebrities, movies, scenic destination spots and more, and provides ranked lists of popular search terms for each one.
In descending chronological order, the top five leading location-based questions ranked in Google’s “near me” category in the U.S. are: gas prices near me, at home COVID test near me, voting near me, early voting near me and PCR test near me. Inquiries about COVID booster shots, n95 masks and, simply, “where to vote,” are also among the top 10 terms listed in the same category, along with searches for Easter egg hunts and local concerts.
According to Google, most Americans searching for topics “near them” were interested in gas prices in 2022, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine contributed to a spike in the U.S. cost of gasoline. Prices at the pump soared across the country, reaching an all-time high of $5.02 per gallon over the summer and causing President Joe Biden to call for a three-month federal gas tax holiday as a suggested means to combat rising costs.
After months of high numbers, the average cost of gasoline in the U.S. dropped below the price a year ago in early December, when it stood at $3.33 per gallon, according to the American Automobile Association. One week earlier, the national average had fallen below the price Americans were paying prior to the start of the war in Ukraine.
Inquiries related to at-home COVID-19 tests and PCR tests — the kind given by medical professionals at doctor’s offices or health clinics — ranked second and fifth, respectively, on Google’s list of trending “near me” searches in the U.S. in 2022, while questions related to booster shots ranked sixth on search engine’s list.
These came as Americans encountered several waves of increased virus cases, with the introduction of new variant strains like Omicron and its subvariants, BA.5, and, more recently, BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, and as the Biden Administration took steps to expand access to COVID testing at medical facilities and at home.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration had just started to authorize new booster shots to complement the original COVID-19 vaccines and provide better protection against new strains at the beginning of 2022. Both agencies provided updated guidance on when to get a booster shot and who should get one throughout the year.
Questions about where to vote and where to vote early also ranked highly on Google’s list of search terms, which seems fitting given that November’s midterm elections gave rise to a new slate of political leaders nationwide and determined party control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. News about the gubernatorial and congressional campaigns taking place across the country became a focal point of press coverage and social media conversation in the months leading up to Election Day.