President Duterte’s new net performance rating of +66 (from 78 percent satisfied and 12 percent dissatisfied) on June 23-26, 2017, is his personal best of the first four quarters of his term. SWS terms it Very Good (from +50 to +69), like his earlier +64, +63, and +63 last September, December, and March, respectively.
As presidential personal bests go, Mr. Duterte’s rating is topped by Cory Aquino’s +72 in October 1986, which was Excellent (+70 and up). It is par for a presidential best, considering the Very Good personal best +69 of Fidel Ramos in July 1993, +67 of Erap Estrada in March 1999, and +67 of Noynoy Aquino in August 2012. Gloria Arroyo’s +30 of March 2004 was barely Good (+30 to +49).
For his first year, Mr. Duterte’s average +64 is at par with the first-year averages of Cory +65, Ramos +65, Erap +63, and Noynoy +55, all Very Good. Arroyo’s average +20 for 2001 was Moderate (+10 to +29).
What is most notable about Mr. Duterte’s popularity is its exceptional level in Mindanao (net +75). His rating in Visayas (+73) reached Excellent for the first time. His national average was carried by Very Goods in Balance Luzon (+63) and the National Capital Region (+58).
Satisfaction in general does not imply satisfaction in all particulars. Neither does satisfaction in some particulars imply satisfaction in general.
The SWS report, posted on July 11, that “57% support PRRD’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao, but more than 6 out of 10 oppose expanding it to Visayas and Luzon,” is from the same June 2017 survey. Even though three of every four Filipinos are satisfied with Mr. Duterte’s general performance as president, at the same time two of every five think he should have limited martial law to a smaller area than all of Mindanao.
The persistence of general satisfaction does not whitewash the definitely unpopular aspects of presidential policy, for instance the brutal war on illegal drugs (see “A honeymoon with misgivings,” 12/17/16), or the subservient posture toward China (see “Filipinos don’t pivot,” 5/27/17).
Public opinion is by nature complex, and never one-sided. To help the public in understanding it, there will be many more reports from the last SWS survey, on various aspects of governance, and several dimensions of the people’s quality of life, to come. These reports, put together, form a tapestry of the social weather.
Ultimately, survey researchers have to depend on what respondents say. Thus, it is important to watch for signs that people are afraid, or hesitant, to reveal their true feelings.
Last June 30, SWS reported, from its First Quarter 2017 survey, 55 percent agreement, versus 21 percent disagreement, with the test-statement: “I can say anything I want, openly and without fear, even if it is against the administration.” SWS classifies the net agreement of +34 as Strong (between +30 and +49).
When this probe was first used, in July 1985 during the Marcos regime, 33 percent agreed, 29 percent disagreed, and 37 percent were undecided. The net agreement of +3 (rounded correctly) was the weakest freedom of speech ever found.
The next time the probe was used, in May 1986 after democracy had been restored, 58 percent agreed and only 19 percent disagreed. The peak of free speech was in March 1987, after the Constitution’s ratification, when 74 percent agreed and only 11 percent disagreed.
SWS has run this probe 36 times over 1986-2017. The average agreement was: 54 percent under Cory, 58 percent under Ramos, 60 percent under Erap, 55 percent under Arroyo, and 55 percent under Noynoy. The freedom of speech under Rodrigo Duterte is par for the course.