Every July 4th, people across the US take to Bing to search for – you guessed it – “fireworks.” Whether it’s searching to buy fireworks, finding the closest show on Independence Day or maybe just learning about the history of pyrotechnics, we see a pronounced spike in searches containing the term “fireworks” on the fourth of July (relative to all searches on that day) as one might expect.
To capture this spike we can define a “firework index” of sorts. This index is the number of searches containing the phrase “fireworks” divided by the total number of searches (for a given location on a given day) and we take this index as correlating to the general level of interest in fireworks.* The picture becomes more interesting when we look at the geographic distribution of this index.
According to the firework index, the southern portion of the country has a relatively mild interest in the spectacle of fireworks. The least interested fireworks enthusiasts call Louisiana and Mississippi home. The Northeast appears to be home to the most rabid firework fans. The most fervent firework searchers can be found in Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
On the west coast, Washington State stands out as the most enthusiastic regarding fireworks. Perhaps this is to be expected given the relatively light firework regulations. Speaking of regulations, according to the US Government, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, and Vermont are only allowed sparklers and other novelties. That doesn’t deter the residents of those states from searching up and down for fireworks. Although they can’t purchase fireworks, the interest is there as Vermont, Ohio, and Maine are greater than one standard deviation above the mean firework index.
The residents of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York are out right prohibited from using fireworks of any kind. While New Yorkers seem to cooperate (near the mean in firework index), Massachusetts and New Jersey residents are gung-ho on fireworks and both have a firework index one standard deviation above the mean. Given the relatively high interest in fireworks from states with restrictions, one might wonder if residents living in a state with bans or restrictions but that borders a state without them would register higher firework index.
The county map gives a more detailed view into firework interests. The index in this map is adjusted to correct for population differences among the counties using Bayesian methods. This ensures that we don’t erroneously attribute high firework interest to places with low population. A few counties jump out, Washington county in Oregon (surrounding Portland) has a high index. And while fireworks are not illegal in Oregon there are restrictions that neighbors in Vancouver, Washington don’t share. However, we see a low firework index in Vancouver relative to Portland. The infamous “Black Jack Fireworks” sits just across the Oregon/Washington border in a county with a low firework index but perhaps it serves the residents of Portland as well (as a Portland native I can vouch for this).
At the county level we can see that the high index of Ohio (despite their restrictions) is mainly expressed along the northern lake border. It’s always fun to play with sparklers at the lake. An interesting pattern pops up around the New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine borders. Recall that three of those four states have restrictions with NY having an outright ban. The spirit of independence lives on and, in the case of these states, particularly along the counties bordering states with fewer restrictions. While most of Maine’s population doesn’t border New Hampshire (the highest index state), the border counties show a strong interest in fireworks. Similarly, New York’s border county residents share their neighbor’s enthusiasm for fireworks to a level their up state residents don’t. Vermont counties form a bridge from NY to Maine connecting firework enthusiasts across state lines.
We hope you found this as interesting as we did.
Happy 4th of July!
-Chris Harland, Data Scientist at Microsoft
* Aggregated and anonymized search volumes were tallied for counties in the United States using reverse IP.