Canadians will no doubt have many burning questions to ask political leaders in this federal election now unleashed upon the country. But right now, in the opening days of the campaign, it seems a lot of people just want to know how old these leaders are.
Google is tracking what Canadians are tapping into their internet searches over the weeks leading up to the Oct. 21 vote and at the moment, their questions are pretty basic — and personal.
In fact, the top question asked about almost all the political leaders — with the exception of Jagmeet Singh and Maxime Bernier — is how old they are. The New Democratic Party leader has also piqued Canadians’ interest about age, but their main Google curiosity is aimed at his wife, Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu. “How old is Jagmeet Singh’s wife?” is the top question related to the NDP leader, followed by “Is Jagmeet Singh married?”
Meanwhile, the top question about the People’s Party of Canada leader is: “Who is Maxime Bernier?” Many in his former Conservative party asked that question when he bolted in protest a couple of years ago to form his upstart PPC.
Google search data can serve as a bracing shot of humility to all the politicians who believe themselves to be well-known quantities to Canadians — a reminder that not everyone lives and breathes politics like the denizens of Parliament Hill and the crowds at election rallies. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has run all kinds of TV ads to tell Canadians that his main priority is “you,” but it’s not clear yet from this data that the interest is entirely mutual. People are wondering how tall Scheer is, according to Google’s search-trend maps, though also: “What is Andrew Scheer’s plan?”
Even with four years of running the country under his belt, Justin Trudeau still has people asking Google how old he is, when he became prime minister, and even what party he leads. The number-four question on the Google list for Trudeau is one we’d all like to know, I guess: “Will Trudeau win the election?”
That almost sounds like something you’d see on that often hilarious Twitter account called @TrudeauGoogles, featuring search terms that someone imagines the Liberal leader typing into Google. This week’s entry, posted on Tuesday as we learned Trudeau was about to call an election the next day, was: “reschedule Wednesday soulcycle.”
Google’s trend mapping can be useful for tapping into what’s going on — or what’s not going on — outside the political bubble, where this election will be won or lost. Trudeau proved that last time Canadians went to the polls.
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For at least two years before Trudeau became prime minister in 2015 (there’s your answer, Google searchers) he continually spiked the top of Google’s search-trend maps, always well above his then rivals prime minister Stephen Harper and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Trudeau may not have been soaring in the polls until a month or so before he became prime minister, but Google searches showed that Canadians wanted to know lots more about him from the moment he entered the race to be Liberal leader in 2012.
He’s still the most searched leader over the past seven days, according to Google, followed by Scheer, Singh, Bernier and Green party leader Elizabeth May — in that order, which is intriguing.
Beyond personalities, the top trending political issues on Google over the past seven days may ring more familiar to political junkies. The top five issues are, in order from the top are: fossil fuel; SNC-Lavalin; climate change; terrorism and the economy.
The fact that SNC-Lavalin shows up at the number-two spot should prompt some reflection within Trudeau’s camp, where they’ve been exhibiting some confidence — maybe overconfidence — that no one cares about the saga that consumed the political headlines for the first quarter of this year. Minimalist answers from Trudeau about SNC-Lavalin — the kind he’s been giving on the first two days of the campaign trail — may send even more people running to Google, or Trudeau’s rivals, for elaboration.
It’s possible that people’s Google questions will become more pointed and specific as the election campaign makes itself increasingly felt in the lives of non-political citizens. At some point, elections become hard to ignore, even for those who are trying to do just that.
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In the meantime, Google’s search data is a timely reminder to all of those who watch politics and comment upon it that not all of Canada shares our avid interest.
Oh, but perhaps we can be of help. Scheer and Singh both turned 40 this year. Scheer is 6’4” or 1.93 metres if you prefer metric. Trudeau will be 48 this Christmas. May turned 65 earlier this year and Bernier is 56. As for who Bernier is, best to stay tuned to how this election turns out for him.