With less than a week left until the U.S. 2010 midterm elections, interest is heating up around the country—in polling places, close races and hot political issues. We thought we’d peek into the search data to see what we could find about what kinds of info people are looking for as they get ready to go to the ballot box next Tuesday. We used a combination of Insights for Search and internal tools to dig up this data, and all searches studied are anonymous.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen rising searches for things like [voter registration], [early voting] and [absentee voting] as people prepare for Election Day. People are also looking for information on [polls] (check out our elections rating site to compare expert predictions). What are the issues occupying people’s mind as they choose who to vote for? Looking at the most popular searches on Google News in October, the issues that stand out are the economy (we continue to see many searches for terms like [unemployment] and [foreclosures]), as well as immigration and health care.

At our headquarters in California, we’re of course paying close attention to two high profile races in this state: the Senate race between Carly Fiorina and incumbent Barbara Boxer, and the governor’s race between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown. Looking the gubernatorial candidates, Brown has been leading in the polls recently, but in the search race, Whitman has the edge, with more than 50% more search volume in 2010 than Brown. Fittingly, Sacramentans are more likely to search for both Whitman and Brown, followed by Angelenos and then San Franciscans. Popular related searches show people looking for information about polling data as well as the candidate debates: we saw searches spike for both candidates on September 29 and October 13, two days that followed debates. There was also a spike around the time of the primary election on June 8, as well as on October 8, when a controversial comment by an aide of Brown’s hit newsstands.

We also wanted to find out what the big issues people were interested in about each candidate. Naturally, we saw a lot of searches for things like [meg whitman bio] or [jerry brown wikipedia], as well as [meg whitman ad] or [jerry brown platform] and vice versa. Terms more specifically related to Meg Whitman include [housekeeper] and [immigration]—reflecting interest in reports that Whitman had employed an undocumented worker as her housekeeper, and corresponding interest in the candidate’s views on immigration and immigration reform. People also want to know about her history at [ebay] and about her family (with the terms [husband] and [children] showing up in searches related to Whitman). But this being California, people are also looking for information about how Whitman would approach the problem of the state’s budget and economy—after immigration, the next issue we saw turn up in terms related to Whitman was [spending]. Interestingly, immigration was also the number one issue in searches related to Jerry Brown. People also seem to be looking for information about Brown’s previous term as governor, and, as with Whitman, we’re seeing searches for information about his [wife].

There’s also growing interest in one of the propositions on California’s ballot this year: Proposition 19, which would legalize and allow regulation of certain marijuana activities. Even though Prop 19 is a state initiative, its implications have people across the country searching for information about it:

Moving across the country, another state that’s grabbed headlines during this primary season is Delaware. Prior to her upset win in the Republican primary against former governor Mike Castle in September, searches for Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell were minimal—even though she’d been in the running since March. Since then, however, she’s been a subject of conversations across the country and searches for her name have consequently risen as well.

Searchers looked for information on a comment O’Donnell made on Bill Maher’s show in 1999 about [witchcraft]—it’s one of the top terms related to searches for O’Donnell. People also are interested in an [snl] spoof of O’Donnell earlier this month. O’Donnell is clearly outmatching her Democrat opponent Chris Coons in search, but only time will tell how the votes play out.

The potential shift in power in the House and Senate following these elections has people closely watching a handful of races to see which party comes out on top. We took a look at the Insights for Search graphs for a handful of close races and races that are considered influential. Take a look at the links below to see more, and plug in the names and other states of other candidates to try it out for yourself:
Of course, no discussion of this election season would be complete without a look at the Tea Party. The grassroots movement has captured the nation’s attention, and has people looking for information about the history of the original Boston Tea Party and related events, like the [boston massacre] and the [tea act], in addition to the more expected searches for information on [tea party rally] or [tea party platform] and figures like [sarah palin] and [glenn beck].

And finally, we’ve also seen some popular political rallies in the past few months. Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally in Washington, D.C. in late August kicked things off, and inspired Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart to host their own events—the March to Keep Fear Alive and the Rally to Restore Sanity, respectively—both of which are taking place this coming Saturday in D.C. Searches related to all of these rallies, especially Stewart’s, have seen huge increases in volume—above 5000%.

We’ll be back soon with more search trends and other information about the mid-term elections. In the meantime, don’t forget to vote!