MANILA, Philippines - After initial results from the Philippine midterm elections showed President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies dominated the senatorial race, Google searches for "migration" and "migrate" spiked dramatically.
The spike occurred a little after 6pm Manila time, around the same time the first batch of unofficial results—less than one percent of all total votes at the time—were provided to the public. The results almost exactly mirrored pre-election surveys, showing Duterte’s endorsed candidates winning most of the 12 senatorial seats up for grabs.
Isaac Reyes, a data scientist and analytics training provider, pointed out the spike using Google Trends.
The data provided by Google pointed to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as the desired location to migrate. Residents of Central Luzon, Metro Manila, and Calabarzon searched for the terms the most.
While the data doesn’t reveal exactly how many times the terms were searched, the numbers represent relative search interest based on place and time. Over the past 7 days, the interest in the terms were at its highest when the election results came out.
"The sheer magnitude of the spike and the fact that the increased search volume occurred specifically in the hours following the release of the preliminary election results makes it likely that there was a causal relationship between the election results and increased Philippines search terms relating to migrating abroad," Reyes said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
Social media users also shared their sentiments, which echoed the searches.
But not everyone thought it was a solution to even consider.
Duterte won the presidency three years ago on a populist platform, elected into power by 16 million Filipinos – about a third of the total 54.6 million voters who cast their ballots in 2016. Since Duterte’s election however, his controversial policies have polarized Filipinos such as his war against drugs and foreign policy shift towards China.
Despite this, Duterte remains wildly popular, enjoying a satisfaction rating of 79% as of last month – his highest since becoming President. The victory of his endorsed candidates is further evidence of his enduring popularity, and will likely mean a continuation of his divisive policies.