Image credit: Philafrenzy /Wikipedia Commons
As we near crunch time in the 2017 UK General Election, all the data and every opinion poll seem to be suggesting that the result will be closer than ever. However, for some reason, the world's biggest source of data - Google - has been largely ignored in the mainstream media.
Countless YouGov polls and other similar ones are quoted every day in the papers and on television, yet there is a huge amount of highly relevant information from the online world that is not being reported on.
The mainstream media report that the Conservatives' previously comfortable 20 point lead, which they enjoyed at the start of the campaign, has apparently dwindled to around 7 points now (per this recent Independent study), but if you look at Google, online it has never even been a contest. And it does not make pleasant reading for Theresa May...
So what is Google Trends telling us about this General Election?
This graph below shows the search trends for the Conservatives vs Labour and the Liberal Democrats, over the last 90 days:
Labour has always enjoyed slightly higher search volumes than the other parties, possibly due to their popularity with younger voters who use the internet more, but there was still a huge spike for both them and the Lib Dems, as soon as Theresa May announced the election on April 18th.
Whilst the Lib Dems then dropped off somewhat, Labour's interest levels have remained far higher than the other two main parties, and, in fact, Jeremy Corbyn's party are currently enjoying their biggest gap in this area since the election was announced.
Talking of the Labour leader, let's have a look at the interest levels in the individual party heads themselves:
Again, it's a 'Google win' for Jeremy Corbyn. Only once in the last seven days has he been knocked off top spot here by Theresa May, and that was the day after the tragic London Bridge terrorist attack when, as the incumbent Prime Minister, she was understandably more prominent.
The theme of Labour dominance continues below, with a massive difference between the number of people interested in finding out more about actually joining the party, and the relative interest in their rivals:
This demonstrates how strongly the depth of some of the support for Labour has grown, with people wanting to do something way above and beyond 'just' voting for them, actually wanting to be a part of the party too.
Finally, we'll look at the overall data Google is providing us with:
By now the above probably comes as no surprise, with Labour running away with more than double the number of searches than the Conservatives, or any of their other rivals.
So does this all mean, even though the mainstream opinion polls have shown the gap between the parties has closed, that it has actually swung completely towards Labour? Possibly not.
As mentioned before, and as other media have also suggested, Labour is the most popular party now with under-25's, and consequently, those who are more likely to be searching for information online than some of their elders, who gain their information from more traditional sources such as newspapers and the television.
The younger age group is also statistically less likely to turn out to vote than the older generations, meaning many of these searches in the data above could be more out of curiosity, than evidencing any real political swing in terms of bottom-line votes.
Even a cursory glance at Jeremy Corbyn's Twitter or Facebook pages compared with Theresa May's shows why he is connecting better with the younger electorate: with a wide range of different media, slick graphics and videos, and importantly striking a human tone; as opposed to the current Prime Minister's offering which is bland, corporate and overloaded with campaign slogans (I don't think anyone wants to hear 'strong and stable' ever again now do they?!)
If, the younger generation who Corbyn appears to have done such a good job of wooing, do actually turn out to vote in numbers, we may well see that once again all the traditional polls were wrong, as they were over Brexit and Donald Trump in the US.
Such a shock, if it happens, will demonstrate that maybe the time has finally come for the mainstream to start paying more attention to the digital world, and the trends Google is identifying for everyone to see.
Not long until we find out...
You can check out the latest Google Trends data on the election here.
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Thanks, Gil David