What Google search data reveals about the B.C. election
Where Christy Clark, John Horgan and Andrew Weaver stand in the Google searches of B.C. voters
New data from the internet's top search engine reveals what British Columbians want to know about the major political parties and candidates leading up to the provincial election next week.
Google Trends shared information with CBC News based on aggregated and anonymized searches in the last month in B.C.
The data shows that searches for the two parties leading in the polls are about equal, but there are far more searches for B.C. Liberal Leader Christy Clark than NDP Leader John Horgan or Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver.
Relative Google search data, in B.C.:
- B.C. Liberals: 36 per cent.
- B.C. NDP: 35 per cent.
- B.C. Greens: 29 per cent.
- Christy Clark: 75 per cent.
- John Horgan: 7 per cent.
- Andrew Weaver: 18 per cent.
According to political scientist David Moscrop, the data signals a long-standing perceived problem for the NDP leading into the election.
"There seems to be a pretty high-level awareness of Christy Clark and who she is, which makes sense — she's been the premier for four years. But nobody really knows who John Horgan is," Moscrop said.
"It's not like Horgan came out of nowhere, he's been the leader of the opposition for years now. So he had time to define himself, but hasn't."
Moscrop says it's unclear how this could affect the NDP on election day — he says voters take the party, its leader and the candidate in their riding into consideration, and it's hard to know which of those factors may outweigh the other.
But Moscrop's advice, overall, is to not take Google's search data too seriously. "It's important to know that the data represents a subset of the population," he said.
"If you really wanted a picture of where everyone was, you'd need to also know what the folks who aren't searching are thinking."
Also worth noting: searches for B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver spiked during last Thursday's televised debate.
Max Cameron, a political scientist at UBC, said Weaver's Google search numbers may indicate that voters are wondering if the Greens are a viable alternative to the Liberals.
"I think that the Green Party has done well so far in this campaign. They were put in the debate and I think Andrew Weaver performed ... extremely well," Cameron said.
Top questions on …
Another point of interest in Google's search data from the past month is the most common types of questions people have been asking about each party.
- How long have the B.C. Liberals been in power?
- What are the B.C. Liberals campaigning on?
- Why are conservatives called B.C. Liberals?
- What is the B.C. Liberal platform?
- What tax break do the Liberals give to the wealthy?
- When did B.C. last have an NDP government?
- Who is leading in B.C., NDP or Liberals?
- What are the policies or ideas of the NDP?
- Why should I vote for NDP?
- Why did NDP lose in 2013?
B.C. Green Party
- What is the B.C. Green's platform?
- Who is the Green Party's leader for premier date?
Cameron says the question posed about the Liberals' place on the political spectrum points to the confusion among some voters about the party's relationship to the federal Liberals.
"The B.C. Liberal Party is in fact quite different from the federal Liberal Party," Cameron said. "It really is much closer to the federal Conservatives."
Cameron said there has even been some discussion within the party about whether or not it should change its name.
As for the Google question about tax breaks for the wealthy, Moscrop says that may be an advantage for the NDP.
"It's been something that the NDP have been hammering on for some time, so it's probably a good sign that that argument is having a bit of an effect on some people," Moscrop said.
As for the types of questions about the NDP, Cameron said they may point to the Liberals' ongoing negative campaign messages about when the NDP was last in power, claiming that they mismanaged the economy and can't be trusted to govern.
"It appears for some voters they're trying to figure out what that means, what exactly did happen in the 1990s," Cameron said.
"I think that voters are trying to figure out, in some cases, how credible those concerns are."