Top Searches: #1 Elections

The United States is sometimes criticized for its citizens' apparent lack of interest in politics, at least beyond the celebrity angle. But "elections" was this year's most-searched term on Yahoo!, even though the long campaign probably made a lot of people weary toward the end.

In the dozen years Yahoo! has ranked its annual Top 10 searches, only two other news events captured the top spot: the BP oil spill in 2010, and Michael Jackson's death in 2009. This year the half-billion people who visit Yahoo! every month typed the word "elections" more than any other.

Hobbled by a struggling economy and acrimonious partisanship, elections became something of a turning point for the United States. However, political news often dominated headlines in the months before. For instance, the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling made corporations legally similar to human beings in terms of campaign contribution limits, raising concerns that campaign spending would zoom out of control. And it did, as politicians, their supporting organizations and political action committees created something of their own economic stimulus, spending a collective $6 billion on campaigns.

It's not clear to what extent super PACs, which are the vehicles the well-heeled and corporate interests can use to fund advertising, were able to "buy" races. The Sunlight Foundation, which has a mission to promote transparency in government, calculated that returns on political investment ranged from a dismal 1.29 percent for American Crossroads, GOP operative Karl Rove's PAC, to 98 percent for Planned Parenthood Action Fund. However, searches on Yahoo! revealed a potentially more engaged electorate, as users browsed issues, reviewed platforms, compared candidates and relentlessly checked facts.