Chalk up another one for the voter: People may have been wearied by the negative campaigns, but they persevered through the slog of politics and made "elections" the year's most searched term. The fifth iteration of an Apple smartphone, a glorious gathering of athletes, the passing of a superstar, and a bevy of celebrities—including one duchess—also mesmerized online audiences in 2012.
Hobbled by a struggling economy and acrimonious partisanship, America marked a turning point with the elections — although some may disagree over its direction. Election news had occupied headlines in 2011, as Republicans sought the nomination for presidency. The Supreme Court's 2010 ruling of Citizens United also set a contentious political stage, unleashing the super Pacs. In a way, politicians & Pacs injected their own economic stimulus with a collective outlay of $6 billion.
It's not clear how much Super Pacs and action funds "bought" races. The Sunlight Foundation's calculated returns on political investment ranged from a dismal 1.29% for American Crossroads (Karl Rove) to 98% for Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Citizens, however undecided, were clearly not passive: Searches on Yahoo! reveal people researching issues, reviewing platforms, comparing candidates, and relentlessly checking facts. In a time of sabermetrics and Freakonomics, pollsters themselves became the story, from Gallup (criticized for declaring a 7-point Mitt Romney lead 16 days before Election Day) to Nate Silver's statistical sweep. Yahoo! Signal too played the predictions game, projecting Feb. 16 that President Obama would win 303 electoral votes to the Republican nominee's 235. (Final tally: 332 for Obama, 206 for challenger Mitt Romney.)
On Nov. 6, voters made their own records: The "youth" vote (ages 18-29) turned out in the same numbers as in 2008, in higher proportion than seniors, and helped decide the election in swing states. The gender gap was the greatest in history. More Latinos than ever before registered. Across the nation, early voting surged. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)
Anticipation for iPhone 5, in a post-Steve Jobs era, signaled the smartphone's record-breaking sales: More than 5 million were sold within three days of its Sept. 21 launch. That, an iPod touch reboot, and the iPad mini all helped cement Apple's most valuable status, and ratcheted the device to the No. 2 slot.(REUTERS/Tim Wimborne)
Kim Kardashian: An ongoing divorce dispute, a romance with rapper Kanye West, and the renewal of her reality show all helped propel Kim Kardashian into the ranks of the most-searched person on Yahoo!. (Mike Marsland/WireImage)
The social media savvy Kate Upton had roles in "The Heist" and "The Three Stooges" comedies, but her nonspeaking part as the cover girl for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition developed her following. (Gilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic)
At once shocking and yet not unexpected, legendary singer Whitney Houston was found dead at age 48 from an accidental drowning in a hotel bathtub. An autopsy later found drugs in her system. (Alicia Gbur/Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.)
Held in London this year, the Olympics drew millions to its long-favored sports (gymnastics, diving) as well as new ones (women's boxing). Social media also became a part of the event, for better and worse. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
A Top 10 denizen from 2005-2008, Lindsay Lohan has seen a turnaround of sorts this year, although not without some setbacks. (Charley Gallay/Getty Images for A&E Networks)
Jennifer Lopez: After a nine-year absence, Jennifer Lopez reappeared in Top Searches in 2011, when the singer-actress became a judge on "American Idol." This year included a new movie, tour, album, and beau. (David Wolff-Patrick/WireImage)