08:46 PM July 12th, 2013

By: Mahar Mangahas, July 12th, 2013 08:46 PM

At present, at the midpoint of the administration of President Noynoy Aquino, the social weather is very calm.  Filipinos are exceptionally satisfied with governance (see my column “Continued contentment with governance,” Inquirer, 6/15/2013), rating it at levels unprecedented

ever since the SWS surveys began, midway in President Cory Aquino’s time.  Economic struggling continues, but can’t be said to be worsening (see “Poverty and hunger are dynamic,” Inquirer, 1/19/2013).  Optimism about personal futures is pervasive (see “Statistics of personal wellbeing,” Inquirer, 7/6/2013).

The foregoing generalizations are based on the direct testimonies of the respondents of the statistically representative quarterly surveys of Social Weather Stations.  The subjectivity in these data is that of the respondents, not that of SWS.  The data are amenable to objective validation by other organizations, private or governmental, in the same way that voting-intentions surveyed by one group can be objectively validated by other groups.

The recent growth in Gross National Product is only incidental to the calmness of the present social weather.  GNP is a most unreliable indicator of social wellbeing; it uses surveys of production, not income.  The government has not yet begun to survey low, middle and high incomes of households annually, much less quarterly (see my “Syncing poverty and growth statistics,” Inquirer, 6/8/2013).

Satisfaction with how democracy works. On Monday, through BusinessWorld, SWS will report a new high 74 percent of Filipino adults as satisfied with how democracy works in the Philippines (“nasisiyahan sa takbo ng demokrasya sa Pilipinas“), in March 2013.

This bests the previous record 70 percent that occurred twice—in September 1992 and again in July 1998—in the first SWS surveys done after Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada, respectively, were elected president.

In June 2010, in the first SWS survey after P-Noy was elected, satisfaction with democracy bounced up to 68 percent.  Successful presidential elections always rejuvenate satisfaction with democracy. The mediocre 44 percent in June 2004 indicates popular disappointment in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s election that year.

The survey item on satisfaction with democracy originated in Eurobarometer, and was followed in Latinobarometro and other regional survey barometers (there is no Asean barometer yet, unfortunately).  SWS started using it in 1991, and did so only twice in the time of President Cory Aquino—finding it at 45 percent in November 1991 and 50 percent in February 1992, or an average of 47.5 percent.

In 13 surveys during FVR’s time, the percentage satisfied with democracy ranged from 46 to 70, averaged 55.9, and closed at 64.  In nine surveys in Erap’s time, it ranged from 41 to 70, averaged 49.7, and closed at 42.

In 26 surveys in GMA’s time, the percentage fluctuated between a miserable 28 in November 2003 and the aforementioned 68 in June 2010, just before P-Noy took office; its average was 41.3, not counting the 68. Apart from the 68, the next highest percentage was 54 in June 2007, right after the unpopular Arroyo administration lost the senatorial election—indicating that the people were pleased that “Team Unity” lost.

In P-Noy’s time, the percentage satisfied with democracy was at the very high levels of 69 in September 2010, 64 in March 2011, and 65 in March 2012, before reaching the new record of 74 in March 2013, with an average of 68 so far.

Democracy-always versus authoritarianism-sometimes. The survey item on satisfaction with democracy is usually accompanied by a second item asking respondents to choose among the following attitudes: (a) “Democracy is always preferable to any other kind of government,” (b) “Under some circumstances, an authoritarian government is preferable to a democratic one,” and (c) “For people like me, it does not matter whether we have a democratic or a nondemocratic regime.”

This second item is important for ascertaining whether minority satisfaction with the working of democracy (from the first item) implies a preference for authoritarianism-sometimes.  It is closely watched in Latin American countries, where nervousness about military coups continues.

There were 20 SWS surveys that used this second item, over 2002-2013.  In 18 of the 20 surveys, the preference for democracy-always got an absolute majority; in the two exceptional occasions (September 2006 and June 2008), the preference for democracy-always got 49 percent, and the preference for authoritarianism-sometimes got 23 percent.

In 2002-2013: The percentage choosing democracy-always ranged from 49 to 64, with an average of 55.5; the percentage choosing authoritarianism-sometimes ranged from 15 to 27, with an average of 21.2; and the percentage saying it didn’t matter ranged from 16 to 28, with an average of 22.6.

In March 2013, 59 percent said they preferred democracy-always, 21 percent said they preferred authoritarianism-sometimes, and 20 percent said it didn’t matter for people like them.

With the latest report on satisfaction with democracy and preference for it at all times, SWS has completed the public releases from its 2013 first quarter survey.  It will begin a new series of reports very soon, based on its second quarter survey, which was fielded at the end of June.

Continuing calm weather is a good time for bold steps.

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