If Google searches were votes: Is Jacinda Ardern 'feeling lucky'?

If Google searches were votes, in five weeks we'd be saying hi to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The new Labour leader trounces her opponent Bill English in the search stakes, according to data from Google's analytical Trends service.

She got a massive spike the day she became Labour leader, with 20 times as many Google searches as Mr English. Up until just two days earlier, Ms Ardern had only been more popular than Mr English on the rare occasion - most notably the week of the 2014 election.

Google Trends/Newshub.
Photo credit: Google Trends/Newshub.

Nearly three weeks on from her ascension, Ms Ardern has settled into a groove - consistently being Googled around twice as often as the Prime Minister.

Google Trends/Newshub.
Photo credit: Google Trends/Newshub.

Kiwis also want images of Ms Ardern more than they want to see Mr English.

Google Trends/Newshub.
Photo credit: Google Trends/Newshub.

In the run-up to the previous two elections, then-Prime Minister Sir John Key was far more popular than either of his opponents. Neither David Cunliffe nor Phil Goff came close to the same number of Google searches in the 30 days prior to the 2011 and 2014 elections.

Google Trends/Newshub.
Photo credit: Google Trends/Newshub.
Google Trends/Newshub.
Photo credit: Google Trends/Newshub.

When it comes to the parties, it's leadership tussles and bad news that appears to drive the public's interest.

The biggest spike Labour's had in the past five years that didn't happen on an election night was August 1 - the day Andrew Little bloodlessly handed over the reins to Ms Ardern.

The equivalent bump for National came in December 2016, when Sir John announced his shock retirement from politics.

Google Trends/Newshub.
Photo credit: Google Trends/Newshub.

Predata Research has found similar results in its analysis of social media engagement. In a post earlier this week, Gordon LaForge said Labour has "leapt ahead of National in Predata's digital campaign scores - a measure of how strongly engagement with one party's social and collaborative media output correlates with the overall conversation about the election in the digital realm".

The interest in Ms Ardern has also given other Labour MPs and candidates "abnormally high" page views.

"This heightened attention to other party members suggests the sensation surrounding Ardern is generating buzz for Labour across the board."

Predata claims to have predicted the outcome of the Brexit vote by analysing online conversation that traditional polling doesn't cover.

Not all publicity is good publicity

Disproving the old adage that all publicity is good publicity, the Greens have never been googled more than in the past two weeks, during which they lost a co-leader and plummeted to below 5 percent in the polls.

Google Trends/Newshub.
Photo credit: Google Trends/Newshub.

Todd Barclay is also evidence to the contrary. According to Wellington tech company Aro Digital, the disgraced Clutha-Southland representative was the most-googled MP of the first six months of 2017, followed by Paula Bennett, Nikki Kaye and David Seymour.

She's not an MP, but according to Aro Digital if she was, young Green Party candidate Chloe Swarbrick would be fifth.

Chloe Swarbrick.
Chloe Swarbrick. Photo credit: Facebook/Chloe Swarbrick

In contrast to its recent success in the polls, the party that appears to hurt the most during election campaigns, in terms of public interest, is New Zealand First. Taking a look at the five-year graph, Winston Peters' crew are consistently the most-googled political party in New Zealand - except around elections.

Google Trends/Newshub.
Google Trends/Newshub.

Whether that's down to genuine interest in the party outside of election campaigns, or a quirk of their name, isn't clear. Adding the word 'Party' to their name makes them all but disappear from the chart, however.

Google Trends/Newshub.
Photo credit: Google Trends/Newshub.

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