OTTAWA — The most talked-about election issue on Twitter is no longer the economy.
Over week two and three of the 11-week campaign, folks are tweeting instead about the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy, mentioning the former newsman's name most often in the more than one million tweets analyzed by Twitter officials.
The data suggest that the Duffy trial is pushing aside the Conservative message about economic management and cutting taxes.
Twitter Canada's Cameron Gordon calls it a "perfect storm" of a high-profile political trial and a narrow election campaign.
Gordon says that storm has also blurred the lines on social media between Duffy and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper as partisans tweet multiple times a day about both the trial and the Senate spending scandal.
While the majority of those tweets are coming from journalists, candidates, partisans and some very active Twitter users, more than 50,000 are public participants not typically associated with political discussions on Twitter, as well as some undecided voters.
Of the more than one million tweets that used the Canadian politics hashtag, Harper's name came up most often in relation to Duffy — a helpful sign to opposition parties trying to push the scandal closer the prime minister.
There are other anecdotal signs that Canadians may not be ignoring the Duffy controversy or the election campaign to the extent that some, in particular Conservative strategists, may have expected.
In an online survey released this week based on responses from recruited members of a panel of would-be voters, Abacus Data found 22 per cent of respondents were following the Duffy trial closely.
Of those panellists who said they were Conservative supporters, Abacus found 11 per cent were less likely to vote for their party based on what came out of the Duffy trial.
The results were from an online survey of a random sample of 1,439 recruited panellists aged 18 and over between August 14 to 17.
The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's name was most often mentioned with the economy, with oil and pipelines following behind in second place. Pipeline protesters have twice interrupted Mulcair's events of late, urging him to oppose two contentious pipeline projects of deep interest in British Columbia, where the NDP is hoping for an electoral breakthrough.
There are other issues that have yet to really take hold in the campaign: Education and First Nations issues ranked eighth and 10th, respectively, among the top 10 issues Twitter users are talking about.
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Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
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