In this week’s back and forth about the PM’s speech and the mainstream media’s reporting of it, there hasn’t been much reference to available data.
On one side, many in the press gallery reported the most important aspect of the events was Gillard’s decision to back Slipper after his grubby text messages were revealed. On the other side was a more diffuse group of commentators (and many argue the broader public) who believed the PM’s decision to call out Tony Abbott’s behaviour was much more significant.
Well, we’re several days in now and we’ve got a few sources of data that are worth having a quick look at. While it’s not decisive, it’s informative, and worth taking a quick look at.
First, Google Trends.
Google Trends is a service the lets you examine the comparative rate of search queries in a particular region, over a particular time. It doesn’t provide raw numbers but expresses the highest rate of search over the given time period as 100, and the other data points as a factor of that.
So what does it show?
It shows that rates of search in Australia for “Peter Slipper” rose sharply on the Tuesday (though Google Trends shows dates in American time) and falling off over the next few days. Similarly, rates for “Julia Gillard” or “Gillard speech” rose sharply after she spoke in Parliament and fell off over the next few days.
It gets interesting when you start to dig into specifics, though. Searches for “misogynist” in Australia over the last seven days were pretty non-existent before the speech. After the speech they increased 50-fold, peaking that day and remaining high the next day. Two days after the speech searched for misogynist had dropped off somewhat but were still about 20 times at the start of the week. Searches for “sexist” in Australia returned similar rates of results over the first two days, dropped but then started rising again.
The rate of searches for “Tony Abbott” experienced a small bump over the period too but nowhere near as pronounced.
When you look over a longer period, Google Trends also reveals that searches for Julia Gillard are at their highest rate since she became the Prime Minister and won the 2010 election.
Perhaps the most informative result though is when you ask Google Trends for the data on “Peter Slipper resignation” or “Peter Slipper sacking” or “Peter Slipper removal as speaker.” When you ask for that Google returns the simple message: “Not enough search volume to show graphs”
Second, You Tube.
You Tube provides good statistics for each video posted, including views over time with references to the Google search terms that brought people to the video and when, websites where it’s hosted, and views from mobile devices. Unfortunately the ABC has disabled public statistics on the copy of its copy of the video. It would do a great service if it reported the data or simply let people see it for themselves (the national broadcaster should probably leave the data unlocked by default).
But there’s another copy of the speech here that has (as of Oct 14) more than 100,000 views. As of Friday (the most recent data available) views were still rising. For every one “dislike” it has gotten so far, the video has received 19 “likes.”
It shows search terms that people used to reach the video, including “Julia Gillard misogynist” – about 1.5% and views from mobile devices – about 11.6% and views from Facebook – about 7.3%. I doubt many of the one-in-five people viewing the video on Facebook or on their smart-phone are Alan Jones listeners. But you never know.
I cannot find a copy of Tony Abbott’s speech to compare results.
The numbers don’t prove any politician was wrong or any politician was right. They do suggest, however, that much of what the mainstream media told us about what the public should be interested in, does not appear to be connected with what the public was actually interested in searching for and viewing.