NZ Election 2020: Google data reveals who, what Kiwis searched for during election debate

Google search interest in Judith Collins soared during Tuesday night's televised debate, with Kiwis also interested in the Resource Management Act (RMA) and Capital Gains Tax.

Five days after New Zealand's election was originally scheduled to be held - it was delayed after a COVID-19 resurgence in Auckland - the first televised debate was held by TVNZ featuring Collins and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern.

Data from Google Trends shows that search interest in Collins was higher than in Ardern - the current Prime Minister - throughout most of the 90-minute debate which began at 7pm on Tuesday. There was fairly balanced interest in each leader after the debate.

Interest in Collins peaked at 7:28pm when there were roughly five times as many searches for her than for Ardern.

Interest over time. Blue represents Collins, while red represents Ardern.
Interest over time. Blue represents Collins, while red represents Ardern. Photo credit: Google.

That jump in searches came during a commercial break, but prior to the ads, Collins and Ardern were asked what their children, James and Neve respectively, would be grateful for in 20 years time.

The Labour leader replied by saying one of the biggest challenges New Zealand will face is climate change. She mentioned her party's commitment to hit 100 percent renewable energy electricity generation by 2030, including by supporting pumped hydro.

"What a difference that will make, not just to the opportunities for New Zealand as one of the few places in the world that will be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity, but also for our exporters, for our reputation and also wider opportunities around our transport network," Ardern said.

Collins interjected, calling that "nonsense", receiving a stern stare from Ardern. 

The National leader said Labour's plan would see electricity prices increase. A report from the Interim Climate Change Committee last year said its modelling showed moving to a higher proportion of renewable electricity was "unlikely to substantially affect power prices, but taking the last step from 99 percent to 100 percent could be very expensive". 

"For example, achieving 100 percent by 'overbuilding' renewable generation could result in power price increases in the region of 15 percent for residential consumers, and 40 percent for industrial consumers. However, overbuilding is not the only option and there are alternatives," the report said.

Ardern responded to Collins, saying: "Dealing with our drought years, which is what pumped hydros does, and moving us to 100 percent renewables actually brings the price down."

Also before the commercial break, the leaders were asked whether the voting age should be lowered to 16. Collins said no, while Ardern said not to rule it out in the future, but she wants to see civics education dealt with first.

Search interest in Collins also remained high after the ads.

Aorere College head girl Aigagalefili Fepulea'i Tapua'i spoke to the leaders about students dropping out of school this year during COVID-19 to go into work and support their families. She asked what the leaders would do to ensure students' futures were looked after.

Collins responded by speaking about her's husband's youth.

"I understand, actually. My husband is Samoan, so Talofa. He was actually taken out of school when he was 15, ran away to his aunty, who took back so he could go to school," she said. 

"That's what happens for many kids who have got a lot of pressure on them because their parents don't have enough money for them. My view is we got to get people into trades, we have got to get them educated, but also, we have to make sure that we have jobs people can go to, so parents can look after their children instead of the other way around." 

The Google Trends data shows that interested viewers with people searching for Collins also looking for "Judith Collins husband nationality", "Judith Collins husband and son", "what nationality is Judith Collins husband" and "talofa". 

These were among the queries related to Collins with the "biggest increase in search frequency since the last time period," according to Google Trends. 

"RMA" was also a related search, something Collins brought up multiple times during the debate. Collins believes repealing the RMA would help deal with New Zealand's housing woes.

Related searches for Collins.
Related searches for Collins. Photo credit: Google.

Searches related to Ardern included "debate tonight" and "Jacinda Ardern mormon".

"Capital Gains Tax" also saw an increase in interest. Ardern acknowledged during the debate that voters have consistently rejected a CGT, which she has ruled out introducing as Prime Minister. 

Related searches for Ardern.
Related searches for Ardern. Photo credit: Google.

Looking wider over the last seven days, Google Trends says 32 percent of searches about political parties in New Zealand were about the National Party, 23 percent were about ACT, 15 percent were about New Zealand First, 14 percent were about Labour and 8 percent were regarding the Greens. 

Collins also took over Ardern on Tuesday night as the most searched political leader for the first time since Google's spotlighted data began on September 9.

Overall, however, over the last week, 55 percent of searches about party leaders were about Ardern, 31 percent were about Collins, six percent each for Winston Peters and David Seymour and 1 percent each for James Shaw and Marama Davidson.