Election 2021: What party are people in your town looking up?

Election 2021: What party are people in your town looking up?

Postmedia News compared Google search trend data in B.C. for the leaders of five of the six major parties over the last week to see what kind of insight could be gleaned from the online searches of British Columbians.

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Burnaby and Surrey are searching for Singh. Belcarra wants to know more about O’Toole. Trudeau has caught the interest of Port Alberni, Hope and 100 Mile House. In Abbotsford, they’re looking up Bernier and Paul.

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Postmedia News compared Google search trend data in B.C. for the leaders of five of the six major parties over the last week to see what kind of insight could be gleaned from the online searches of British Columbians. (Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet was excluded from the analysis, since his party isn’t running any candidates in B.C.)

The results showed a surprising amount of geographic variation, highlighting where in the province different party leaders are generating the most interest.

Of the five leaders, search interest for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was the most widespread, with strong search activity across southern and central B.C., Vancouver Island and farther north in Fort Nelson and Dawson Creek.

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Searches for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole were strong in the Okanagan corridor through Kelowna and up north in Dawson Creek and Smithers.

Jagmeet Singh dominated searches in Burnaby, Surrey, Nelson and Sechelt, and showed strong interest across the southeast corner of the province.

Ahmed Al-Rawi, director of The Disinformation Project at Simon Fraser University, said search trends can “provide some insight about certain trends, especially in terms of who is leading and who is not, in terms of popularity.”

But he cautioned against reading too much about voting intent from search data, noting that people searching on the internet “do not constitute the majority of voters.”

“There are many voters who do not usually use the internet,” he said.

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Al-Rawi said spikes of interest in searches often follow the news: “When there are news reports about certain issues people get more interested, so they start searching.”

That dynamic is evident in the recent rise in search interest in B.C. for People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier. Media coverage of Bernier increased along with news reports about the removal of a PPC riding association president following an event at a Liberal campaign stop where gravel was thrown at Trudeau.

“That was all over the news leading into last week,” said Greg Lyle, president of polling firm Innovative Research Group, “and it lines up perfectly with the searches that you’re seeing.”

Increased attention can lead to an increase in support, according to Lyle.

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“The increased attention to Bernier matches the increase in PPC support we were seeing on some polling,” he said.

Similarly, the proportion of searches about Trudeau began to fall around the same time that national polls began showing O’Toole with a slight lead.

Lyle said the leaders’ debate could be another event that drives search traffic, including for Green party Leader Annamie Paul.

“She had a good night (that) night,” Lyle said, “you may well see a surge in Paul searches.”

Google searches in B.C. for Paul did surge during the debate, in fact, surpassing Bernier and matching interest in Singh. Searches for O’Toole jumped as well, briefly making him the most-searched-for party leader in the province.

ngriffiths@postmedia.com

twitter.com/njgriffiths


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