[Note: a condensed version of this post appears on the Samara Blog]
A few weeks ago UK political scientist Phil Cowley undertook a simple project that used crowd-sourced information to explore what questions Brits had about their country’s cabinet. In other words, he went to Google, typed in “is [name of cabinet member]” and reported the top result suggested by autocomplete. Seeing that no one had yet replicated his findings for Canada, I figured I’d give it a try while watching some Olympic hockey.
Cowley’s experiment was a variant off of the “why is [US State]” meme, and some of his results are similarly bizarre or funny. More surprising though was that for a third of British cabinet members, the top suggestion was whether they were married. Also interesting was that for five cabinet members, the top suggestion was not actually an “is [name]” question. Instead Google substituted “who is [name]” indicating that people used the site to find out who the cabinet minister was, not things about them. There was also one cabinet member whose name produced no suggestions at all.
And so what of Canada? The top autocomplete suggestions for “is [name]” are listed below, and are separated into Ministers (senior cabinet members) and Ministers of State (junior members) according to the order of precedence. This was done since Cowley only covered the 21 senior ministers who make up the British cabinet (junior ministers are not considered cabinet members in the UK). For interest’s sake, I’ve also included Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. I did my best to achieve an unbiased result by signing out of Google and clearing all browser history, cookies, etc. before entering the names.