Lib Dem leadership contest: do Davey or Swinson generate the most public interest?

I’ve covered previously the (limited) polling information available so far about the relative public popularity of Jo Swinson and Ed Davey, the two candidates to succeed Vince Cable as Liberal Democrat leader.

There’s another way of judging how good each has been over the years at securing that scarce fuel for the party, public interest. It’s the data from Google showing how many people have been searching for each of them online.

Lib Dem leadership contest: MPs to stay out of contest and why you should pay attention to ex-staff

A usual part of leadership contests, in the Lib Dems and elsewhere, is the tallying of how many MP endorsements each candidate has. more

Let’s break that data down into three periods: 2005-2010 (i.e. the period when both were MPs and the Lib Dems weren’t in government), 2010-15 (when both were ministers) and since 2015.

Each of the graphs below shows the relative level of Google web searches about these two Liberal Democrats on a 1-100 scale.

Davey vs Swinson 2005-2010

Prior to coalition government, Jo Swinson secured more attention than Ed Davey by a small but increasingly consistent margin.

Ed Davey vs Jo Swinson in Google Trends 2005-10

Davey vs Swinson 2010-2015

During coalition government, they came out equal, getting as much interest from the public as each other.

Ed Davey vs Jo Swinson in Google Trends 2010-15

Davey vs Swinson 2015-2019

Since 2015, or more precisely since the kick-off of the 2017 general election, there’s been a clear difference. Jo Swinson has secured far more public interest than Ed Davey.

Ed Davey vs Jo Swinson in Google Trends 2015-19

Of course, not all public interest is welcome interest, but there’s a pretty clear pattern in each of the graphs and not one that is distorted by one particular spike over a negative story. Nor is the past always a guide to the future. But on this data, Jo Swinson has the stronger track record to point at.

The 2019 Lib Dem leadership election is being covered by me both in podcast form with Stephen Tall in Never Mind The Bar Charts (subscribe here) and in email newsletter form with Liberal Democrat Newswire (sign up here).

One response to “Lib Dem leadership contest: do Davey or Swinson generate the most public interest?”

  1. As I’ve mentioned before Mark, I think this is the clear differentiator Jo has in her favour. It’s pleasing to see it confirmed by data. But it’s worth reflecting on why she has this advantage and I think she showed it at the Islington hustings. She’s much more flexible than the now-fading generation of politicians. The very opposite of Teresa May, she can think on her feet. Her answers come fresh and to the point because she has a coherent world-view and values to draw them from. She avoids sound bites and standard oratorical tropes. That can make her seem less rousing and tub-thumping than some but means she gains in the value of what she communicates. It’s great to see that over time this works in terms of getting through to the public.

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