Google searches on refugees and niqab trend during election campaign

As election day nears, Google searches on the refugee crisis and the niqab are on the rise, while those on the environment are dropping. With less than a week to go in the campaign, Google Canada has released data on the top trending and declining issues of the election.

Environment and Bill C-51 among election issues searched less often on Google

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair chat prior to the Munk debate in late September. The leaders' focus on the refugee crisis and the niqab are reflected in the top trending election issues on Google. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Searches on the refugee crisis and the niqab have trended higher on Google during the election campaign, while those on the environment have dropped. 

With less than a week to go, Google Canada has provided a glimpse into the election discussion online, releasing data Wednesday on the top trending and declining issues of the election.

Searches on the refugee crisis and the niqab, which have dominated debates and divided parties throughout the campaign, top the search engine's trending list.

The data is also broken down via an interactive map of the country, which shows the top searched issues in each riding since the election was called in early August.

The refugee crisis was the most searched issue in most of the Greater Toronto Area and British Columbia and the entirety of the Northwest Territories. Meanwhile, the niqab topped searches in northern B.C. and a large swath of northern Ontario.

Google Canada released its list of the top trending issues of the election Wednesday. (Google Canada)

Other trending issues, based on searches since the campaign began, include the price of oil, daycare, the recession, Senator Mike Duffy and the "Netflix tax" — which Conservative Leader Stephen Harper came out against via Twitter video, though no leader ever actually proposed the levy.

Google Canada's Aaron Brindle told CBC News in a statement that the data was captured through comparing search growth since Aug. 2 (when the election was called) with search interest over the same period of time before the campaign began.

The search engine also captured declining trends by comparing search data.

The environment and anti-terror bill C-51 topped this list — though both have been discussed by each of the leaders during this election.

According to September results from Vote Compass, CBC's voter engagement survey, the environment was the second most important issue to Canadians, followed by the economy.

The environment and anti-terror bill C-51 top Google's list of declining issues.. (Google Canada)

Other declining election issues on Google include residential schools, First Nations, ISIS, public transit and terrorism. There was no overlap between the issues on the trending and the declining issues list.

Social media election

Social media has played an instrumental role during this marathon-length campaign, causing candidates to be turfed for their past comments, serving as the venue for leader Q&As and platform releases and allowing users to interact with the parties.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have released batches of statistics throughout the race, providing insight into what users have been talking about and when. During the various leaders' debates, Twitter tracked what users were talking about in real time and released its results at the conclusion

The data is central to a new elections website called Canada's Next Leader, which aggregates and correlates election data from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The site was started by tech companies Pound and Grain and Tradeable Bits.

Using a Facebook function called topic insight — which compiles both private and public mentions — the website says the NDP is the most discussed party on Facebook in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, while the Conservatives top Facebook discussion in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

The Liberals are the most talked about in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The site does not provide data for Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador or any of the territories. The mentions of the parties could be positive or negative.

Twitter is expected to release its final batch of pre-election data on Thursday.


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