Updated : 25th May 2017 The Google Trends graph above for the past 7 days comparing online popularity between Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and leader of the opposition Simon Busuttil, seems to confirm the trend outlined in previous weeks and shows a persistent gap with Dr. Muscat ahead, albeit not with the same margins as that registered during the 2013 election.
Earlier: 17th May 2017
Google Trends, a not so popular, yet powerful tool, is showing Joseph Muscat is the most popular in Malta right now. The tool can compare the search frequency for particular terms over a period of time. Google ‘Trends’ also allows us to focus on one particular country or region, in our case, Malta. Using this tool we compared Joseph Muscat and Simon Busuttil’s popularity trends for the past 90 days.
At the moment it is clearly indicating that if an election were to be held today Joseph Muscat would win the election, the above graph shows the search terms trend on Google for Malta for both leaders, indicating Muscat is ahead, however for a brief period on the 11th and 12th May Simon Busuttil was able to get ahead of Muscat, albeit by a small margin.
This means that the race may be closer than we think and every day, every news item uploaded, every allegation or pre-election promise may eventually end up swinging the election either way.
You may ask yourself, but why should we trust these results generated by this tool? – Well, first of all Google is a completely independent foreign company and does not care whether Muscat or Busuttil gets elected, secondly this tool has so far managed to predict elections all over the world, most interestingly it managed to predict that Trump would win in the USA when all experts, journalists and polls were indicating otherwise, it also predicted Obama’s victories.
Looking back we can also notice that we could have also been able to predict Muscat’s win over Lawrence Gonzi back in 2013, the graph below extracted from Google Trends shows a direct comparison between Joseph Muscat and Lawrence Gonzi search terms from Malta just before the 2013 election:
Google Trends can also be used to track interest in a particular term and related searches, for example if we had to key in the Prime Minister’s wife name, ‘Michelle Muscat’, this tool would indicate that interest online in her name peaked on the 20th and 21st April.
This peak coincides perfectly with the date when blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia uploaded serious allegations on Mrs. Muscat. It is pertinent to note that both Mrs. Muscat and the Prime Minister categorically denied the allegations and a magisterial inquiry into the matter is still ongoing, the Prime Minister has on several occasions promised that he would step down if the allegations were proved true.
Interest in predicting election outcomes is not something new, Opinion polls became popular in the United States back in 1936, however in Malta polls started being published in newspapers only just before the 2013 election.
All around the world it has been proven that early in the campaign, polls are poor measures of the future choices of voters, however the poll results closer to an election are a more accurate prediction of an outcome.
Another model for predicting the result of a specific election revolves around the theory that people vote according to the state of the economy, scholars argue that in the United States, if the economy is getting stronger, people tend to vote for the same President for another term or vote the incumbent out if the economy is performing poorly. No particular study has been carried out in Malta on this subject yet, however it is common sense to argue that people vote according to their perceived standard of living.