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Data: Google Trends; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Between a siege on the Capitol building, a Texas snowstorm, Brood X cicadas, the Olympics and a stuck container ship in the Suez Canal — not to mention endless COVID variants it's been a busy year.

Why it matters: In the inaugural Axios-Google Trends news cycle chart, we chronicled the unprecedented first year of President Trump. Four years later, Joe Biden is president and the themes have changed, but America's short attention spans and rapid breaking news cycles continue.

By the numbers: The single topic to receive the highest percentage of Google searches all year was the Olympics, during the week of its opening ceremonies.

  • Next came searches about stimulus checks at the very start of the year, followed by searches related to Trump during the week of Jan. 6.
  • Searches related to Biden and the COVID-19 vaccine rounded out the top five topics overall, out of more than 50 major 2021 events and topics chosen by Axios.

COVID never left our searches over the course of the year.

  • Google measures search interest on a scale of 0-100, which reflects the percent of total Google searches dedicated to a topic. Searches for COVID-19 vaccines never fell below 5 on that scale, even when compared to dozens of spiking topics over the entire year.
  • Searches related to shootings also never fell below 5.

Between the lines: Overall, most major events or issues this year only managed to keep America's attention for one or two weeks.

What to watch: The topics that stick or surge at the right time could have an important role in next year's mid-term elections.

  • There was relatively high and sustained interest in topics like crime and the border this year — favored midterm talking points by the GOP. However, it was largely in line with interest over the last five years.
  • Biden's Build Back Better plan received a recent spike of attention recently, but it has had relatively little national interest compared to the other times on the list.

Go deeper: Visit our past projects for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

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