TOTAL SHARES

Newsstand

Analysts vs surveys: Aquino post-‘Yolanda’ edition

A+
A
A-

When Reuters ran an analytical piece on the “backlash” against President Aquino on Nov. 15, a week after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” swept through central Philippines, I sent a message to one of my friends in the wire agency. “Did you compare raw satisfaction (74% in Mar 2013) with NET satisfaction (+49, Sept 2013)?”

Like many at that time, my assessment of the Aquino administration’s response had swung from the initial thumbs up the day after the storm (when we interpreted the lack of news from the disaster areas as good news) to an emphatic thumbs down several days later, when the question of leadership was very much in the air (and on the Inquirer front page). “Who’s in charge here?” Indeed.

But like many others, I wanted to be fair; I wanted to base my criticism on the right facts, rightly understood. Which is why I asked my friend in Reuters; perhaps I did not make myself clear, because the answer I got was anodyne: “if I remember june and sept 2013.”

I replied with two more messages. First, having just consulted the surveys in question, I corrected my friend’s mistake. “Actually, March (not ‘one point last year’) and Sept. But 74 in March is satisfaction, 49 in Sept is satisfied minus dissatisfied.” Second, I pointed to my real concern: “Your story, by comparing apples & oranges, can be accused of misleading use of surveys. Use NET  na  lang  in both,  bagsak  din  naman.” (The entire short conversation can be read on my Twitter timeline; scroll all the way down to Nov. 15.)

The wire story was circulated around the world. It carried a resonant but unsupportable head: “Analysis: Hero to zero? Philippine president feels typhoon backlash.” In visual terms, the equivalent of the familiar hero-to-zero phrase is black and white. That is, and to belabor the point, the headline is saying that President Aquino had gone “from white to black.” Stated in those terms, it would be difficult to find anecdotal, much less statistical, support for such a transformation. (Again, I wish to emphasize that I thought the President’s initial response was terrible.) The catchy metaphor in the head, however, was not my concern.

It was the glaring misunderstanding of survey results.

In the Reuters analysis, we read: “At one point last year, Aquino, the only son of democracy icon and former president Corazon Aquino, enjoyed a 74-percent approval rating.” In fact, the 74-percent approval rating was recorded by Social Weather Stations in March 2013, not “at one point” in 2012.

Three paragraphs later, we read: “Aquino has since been accused of failing to convincingly tackle a culture of political patronage. His popularity rating sank to 49 percent in September.” But in fact the figure of 49 percent corresponds to SWS’ net satisfaction rating; that is, 68 percent satisfied less 19 percent dissatisfied. The right comparison is between the 74 in March and the 68 in September. There is a drop, to be sure, but hardly the vertigo-inducing one suggested in the comparison between 74 and 49.

Why does this matter? First, wire journalists traditionally enjoy the highest reputation among industry members. Such an obvious instance of innumeracy (nothing more; I do not impute political motives of any sort) is disappointing in a Reuters piece.

Second, and more important: It forces us to look more skeptically at the usual political analysts. (It goes without saying that that attitude of skepticism should apply to this column too.)

Here, for example, is what one of my favorite analysts, Mon Casiple, said to Reuters last November: “This could be big. If nothing happens in the next week or so, and the rehabilitation goes haywire, he will have a big political problem.” (Casiple maintained this stance until late last month; his Yahoo! News column of Dec. 24 suggests that Mr. Aquino is on a “political suicide path.”)

And here is what political science professor Benito Lim said, referring to what he saw as a damaged President: “I think he will not be popular despite the fact that he is trying his best.”

Reuters summed up its round-up of interviews with political analysts in unmistakable terms. “Political analysts say Aquino’s ratings will likely suffer in the next opinion polls, especially in the typhoon-swept central Philippine provinces that have been bastions of support.” (I must note that I thought the same thing then.)

The SWS fourth-quarter survey results are in, however, and they make the Reuters analysts look like rank amateurs.

From 68 percent in September, the President’s satisfaction rating held statistically steady at 69 percent; his net satisfaction rating remained at plus 49 percent. In the Visayas, the hardest-hit disaster areas, his satisfaction rating rose from 68 to 70 percent (a movement “paralleled” by the nominal increase in the number of dissatisfied from 19 to 21), and his net satisfaction remained statistically steady, up from plus-48 to plus-50.

I regret that I was not able to make good on a plan last month to challenge critics of the two main survey organizations to accept a dare. At a time when conventional wisdom (as represented by the Reuters analysts) was certain that President Aquino would suffer a major fall in his approval or satisfaction ratings, after his administration’s calamitous initial response to the Yolanda catastrophe, I had wanted to make a small bet—not because I was convinced that Mr. Aquino’s survey ratings would hold steady (again, I shared the view of many that “of course” the President’s post-Yolanda numbers would drop), but because I wanted the survey critics to acknowledge the competence, the fundamental professionalism, of both Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia.

Could SWS be wrong? There is that possibility, as demonstrated by their failed 2004 exit poll. But that’s a wager I would not bet on.

* * *

jnery@inquirer.com.ph/johnnery.wordpress.com

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • FannyMacquiao

    PNoy did a great job trying to use his PR Team to make it appear he was doing a good job and though they may have fooled some of the people some of the time they did not fool all of the people all of the time. His leadership and inefficiencies were exposed by non-other than the international media who were covering the typhoon destruction.

  • Pitbulldog

    What hero to zero is that? P-noy has been zero since the start. Zero acomplishment in Congress all through his slumberful stint in the House and zero as a president. That is to be expected from a wily person with an aversion for hard work and whose notoriety was achieved by merely capitalizing on his parent’s fame to drag him to where he is now.

  • Bayang_magiliw

    THE KING AND QUEEN CRABS ARE SCRATCHING THEIR HEADS AND NOW CONFUSED!!! NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO TO PULL DOWN THE PRESIDENT IT IS NOT WORKING!!! Even with full funding from CCCC (CBCP, Corrupt and Communist Coalition), THEY FAILED!!! Kaya nga nag meeting sina Gloria, Erap, FVR, Archbishop Cruz, Noli De “Cashtro” and unknown to many the BINAY group dahil WA-EPEK ang mga PLANO NILANG PABAGSAKIN si PNoy!!! A BUNCH OF THIEVES AND LOSERS!!!

  • 33Sam

    SURVEY SCHMURVEY, OY VEY.

    MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS A HOAX. IT IS PAID TO WITHHOLD THE TRUTH.

    SO WHERE DO SURVEYS COME IN?

    THEY ARE JUST SLEIGHT OF HAND MATHEMATICS TO HYPNOTIZE.

    WHY DON’T YOU DEAL WITH THE FACTS THAT GLOBALIST CONTROLLED BANANA REPUBLICS ARE AT THE BECK AND CALL OF THEIR “BETTERS” AND WHEN THEY SAY TO YOUR LEADERS TO TAKE A DIVE, THEY TAKE A DIVE AND SUFFER THE LEFT HOOK OF DEFEAT AND A SWOLLEN JAW.

    THEN ADD TO THAT, YOLANDA WAS GLOBALISTS PLAYING GOD USING WEATHER WEAPONS TO CREATE A SUPER STORM LIKE YOLANDA, THE SAME WAY THEY DID FOR KATRINA AND SANDY, SO THEY COULD CAUSE ABRUPT DISPLACEMENT, TAKE OUT A FEW MORE THOUSAND PEOPLE, KNOWN TO THEM AS “USELESS EATERS” AND TAKE CONTROL OF THE LAND ONCE OCCUPIED BY THESE USELESS EATERS.

    IT IS NO USE LOOKING AT A LEADER IF HE/SHE/THEY ARE PUPPETS TO SOMEONE WITH ALL THE MONEY AND THE MODERN SECRET WEAPONS KNOWN TODAY TO BE THE SILENT WARFARE.

    WAKE UP AND STOP BEING SO NAIVE.

    YOUR COUNTRY SIGNED ONTO AGENDA 21 IN 1997 WITH RAMOS’ EXECUTIVE ORDER PA 21. HE SIGNED THE COUNTRY’S SOVEREIGNTY ONTO THE U.N. TO BECOME A SUZERAINTY. THIS MEANS THESE GLOBALISTS, WHO OWN AND CONTROL THE UNITED NATIONS, LIKE DAVID ROCKEFELLER, CAN MOVE THE PAWN PIECES WITH ALL MANNER OF TOO BIG TO FAIL MEASURES THAT THE AVERAGE ILLITERATE WOULD NEVER DREAM EVER EXISTED. AND AGENDA 21’S THRUST IS TO TAKE OVER THE PLANET, UNDER THE GUISE AND MONIKER OF WORLD GOVERNMENT ERGO NEW WORLD ORDER, PUTTING THE PLANET IN THE HANDS OF THE TOP 1% WHILE THE 99% ARE SLATED FOR GENOCIDE EXTERMINATION.

    THE HANDWRITING IS ON THE WALL.

    GLOBALISTS MAINTAIN AN ANTI-COMMUNIST RHETORIC WHILE FUNNELING IN LARGE SUMS OF MONEY INTO ALL SIDES OF THE COMBATANTS FOR WORLD WAR THREE. OLDEST PLOY IN THE BOOK.

    A PRESIDENT IS NOTHING MORE THAN A JANITOR TO THESE PEOPLE!

  • Renz

    Dear Mr. Nery, I’m sure you’re familiar with the following:

    James Carville: (It’s) the economy, stu*id!

    I think you know what I mean.

  • GMAspiras

    “A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep.”
    (Vernon Howard)

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94

editors' picks

January 30, 2015

What price peace?

advertisement
January 29, 2015

Peace process in peril

advertisement