Hitwise, the industry leader in online consumer behaviour, today releases new data showing the enduring importance of personality in British politics.
With the snap election called just six weeks ago, and such a short timeframe dedicated to winning over the electorate, the biggest topics were expected to dominate the political landscape: Brexit, the NHS, and the economy. Hitwise, however, has revealed the public’s fascination with party leaders over policies, with moments of controversy dominating searches around Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron.
In the final week of full campaigning (w/e 3rd June), searches for Theresa May were 381 per cent higher than the Conservative Party, and Jeremy Corbyn’s share was 349 per cent higher than that of the Labour Party. In comparison, searches around the Liberal Democrats were in fact 219 per cent higher than their party leader, Tim Farron.
Personality over policy is a familiar theme in British politics, with strong orators in Tony Blair and David Cameron dominating Downing Street for a generation. By modelling the audiences who have searched for each current leader, Hitwise has found no differentiation between several of the key issues. Both immigration (1.3%) and the NHS (1.1%) resonate equally with Labour and Torie associated searches, while nuclear and education differentiate by only 0.1% and 0.2% respectively. Returning to the personality traits of the leaders, however, shows how people inform their decisions.
Strikingly, the top online search variation around Jeremy Corbyn was the “IRA” for the week ending 3rd June, which accounted for 4.1 per cent of all related searches to the Labour leader. Likewise, Tim Farron saw 2.3 per cent of all related search variations, the second highest, revolve around “Homophobia”, following statements that homosexuality was a sin.
For Theresa May, 1.8% of all search variations related to “Fox Hunting” in the week ending 3rd June, while “Dementia Tax” accounted for an additional 0.4%. Following criticism around the U-turn on social care, the Prime Minister has seen this policy renamed with more emotive connotations. In fact, in the week after the Conservative party manifesto was launched, searches for “dementia tax” increased nearly 20 per cent (19.7%).
In a further example of the role of personality, both “Age” and “Husband/Wife” feature among the top ten search variations for all three main party candidates, highlighting the public’s interest in the leaders’ personal lives outside of politics.
Nigel Wilson, managing director at Hitwise, says, “Moments of individual controversy evidently capture the interest of the public more than any associated party policy, and even with Brexit looming over the election, it’s crucial not to forget the importance of personality in British politics. By analysing what Brits are searching for online, we can see that voters are informing their decisions predominately in how individuals have conducted themselves, with character and personality the overriding interests.”