RMIT FactLab looked at the five key topics voters searched for most so far in this election campaign.
What is the electorate concerned about in the wake of this week’s televised leaders debates? Which issues debated by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Antony Albanese have driven election-themed searches on Google in the campaign so far?
The perceived wisdom is that nothing better captures the preoccupations of people than a scan of Google search data.
Forget what they may say to pollsters or even friends, their true interests are revealed in what they search for after the sparks flew in a televised championship bout between the leaders.
RMIT FactLab looked at how five key issues have tracked online:
Aged care dominated most of the country's searches last week
Defence received higher search results in the Northern Territory and ACT
A higher frequency of breakout searches related to ICAC responses to the Prime MInister calling the Integrity Commision a “kangaroo court'' and federal and Victorian announcements of one-off $250 cost of living support payments
There was also high interest in the Climate Council’s Risk Map
RMIT FactLab compared Google searches for the period 2-9 May around five key election issues. Those key issues were: aged care, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), climate change, cost of living and defence. Here’s what we found.
Aged care was the highest search term out of the five issues, dominating searches in South Australia (50%), Victoria (50%), Tasmania (46%), New South Wales (43%), Western Australia (40%) and Queensland (41%).
Key rising search queries included:
Southport Lodge Aged Care: the Queensland aged care facility was in the news last year for failing every quality standard in a surprise audit by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) (ABC News, 29 January 2021)
Hope Aged Care Swan Hill: the Victorian aged care facility was in the media in 2021 for not being adequately prepared to deal with COVID-19 outbreak (Aged care.gov)
The Aged Care Strike 2022 planned for May 10 (Aged Care Guide). Key issues include ongoing anger of treatment to workers and aged care residents, low wages and workforce shortages
It is worth noting Seabrook Aged Care and Joseph Banks Aged Care also recorded search increases over the past week.
Defence was the most searched search term out of the five issues in ACT (51%) and Northern Territory (42%).
Key related search results (rising) included:
A 1,450 per cent increase in searches for Defence debate. This could be in reference to the major parties’ differing stances on the issue: the Coalition pledged to boost defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP and increase military personnel by 18,500 by 2040; Labor has promised an independent "Defence Posture Review'' into Australia's military resources and strategy; and the Greens want to reduce defence spending to 1.5 per cent of GDP and focus on natural disaster preparedness and peacekeeping (ABC, 20/04)
A 250 per cent increase in Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme, the policy which provides members of the ADF assistance in purchasing a home (DHOAS.gov)
And increased interest in the Defence Bank’s Interest Rate.
Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
New South Wales had the highest number of searches for ICAC, as well as the most breakout searches - trends where the search term grew by more than 5000 per cent.
Key related searches included:
Stephen Rushton was a breakout search term. Mr Rushton is one of the New South Wales anti-corruption watchdog commissioners. Last week, he criticised the Prime Minister for his comments likening a Federal ICAC to a “kangaroo court”. Mr Rushton said “to describe us as a kangaroo court is not just misleading, but untrue,” and called those who charatertise the ICAC agency such, “buffoons”.
Breakout searches also related to NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and ICAC, who also responded to the Prime Minister, saying the comments went too far (ABC, 3 May).
Another breakout term was autocracy. The definition of an autocracy is “government by a single person or small group that has unlimited power or authority, or the power or authority of such a person or group” (Cambridge dictionary). A deeper look into the search data around the term autocracy, shows highest searches were in ACT, along with related topics and queries including: “Morrisons - supermarket company”, “kangaroo”, “kangaroo court” and “Roe v Wade”.
Throughout the election campaign, climate has been the highest trending topic of the five policy issues. However last week, the issue was lower in voter priority, and ranged between 21 to 34 per cent of searches across Australian states and territories.
Key related search results included:
Climate Valuation was a key term search. The organisation Climate Valuation provides analysis into the physical and financial impacts of climate change on residential property. Research and analysis from the organisation was used in the formation of the Climate Council Risk Map
Combining the search increases for Climate Risk Map Australia (4,550 per cent increase) and Climate Risk Map (2,900 per cent increase) means the Climate Council was a breakout search last week
Last week’s Climate Protests were also key search terms for Sydney and Hobart recording a 700 per cent increase in interest each. The protest was the latest in the School Strike for Climate campaign.
Cost of Living
Searches for cost of living were around 2 to 5 per cent of all searches across Australian states and territories.
However, key cost of living searches rose out of proportion compared to other searches.
Top breakout search was for the Special Cost of Living support, prompted by the Government’s one-off payment of $250 to support the cost of living.
Acknowledgement of Country
RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.