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Social Climate
Starting normally again

By Mahar Mangahas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:11:00 10/09/2010

Filed Under: Government, Ratings

Thus each respondent is given five simple choices of grades for the president, or any government official for that matter. The grade each individual respondent gives is acceptable, as long as it is honest. A competent field interviewer does not dispute the grades she is told. No one?s grade is wrong for being in the minority. No one is a master grader who knows best how to grade a president?s performance.

An SWS poll summarizes the individual grades into collective opinion. Since the neutral option is openly given to the respondents, a favorable survey outcome requires, not a majority, but simply a plurality of the satisfied over the dissatisfied, i.e., a net satisfaction score of at least +1. (Broadcasters should pronounce +1 as ?plus one,? not ?positive one,? and its counterpart -1 as ?minus one,? not ?negative one.? In print, the + sign for a net score is mandatory, not optional.)

The SWS term ?Very Good? describes not P-Noy?s present performance itself but the strong consensus of satisfaction with it. Correspondingly, the term ?Very Bad,? which came up two quarters ago, described not President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?s performance itself but the strong consensus of dissatisfaction with it at that time.

Valid comparison over time requires consistent phrasing of the survey question. The terms satisfaction (kasiyahan), approval (pagsasang-ayon) and trust (pagtitiwala) are not interchangeable, even though such feelings may be related. In my opinion, those who carelessly use the common American polling term ?approval? when reporting on an SWS satisfaction survey are unconsciously betraying a colonial mentality.

SWS uses ?satisfaction? when asking opinions on a person?s performance, and ?trust? when polling on confidence in a person?s character. It asked about trust in Noynoy Aquino in its June 2010 survey, since that was before his inauguration. His net trust rating of +83 in June 2010 and his new net satisfaction rating of +60 as president in September 2010 are not strictly comparable to each other. The two numbers are no basis to conclude that public trust in Noynoy has decreased since last June.

The +60 figure is Mr. Aquino?s very first rating as president in the Social Weather Surveys. Without earlier data, it is pure speculation to claim that his popularity was hurt by the Hong Kong tourist-hostage crisis in August, as implied by journalistic remarks like ?notwithstanding a bungled hostage rescue? (for which his supporters say he was not to blame). It is likewise speculative to claim that his popularity was boosted by the foreign investments secured in his September trip to the United States (for which his critics say he does not deserve the credit).

Seen from the standpoint of initial ratings of previous presidents, what President Aquino?s initial rating clearly shows is a return to normality. Three of the last four presidents before him also started out with Very Good ratings, where they basked in the people?s goodwill for some time. Let us hope that P-Noy will be as fortunate, if not more so.

Corazon Aquino?s first net satisfaction rating in May 1986, three months after taking office, was +53. Fidel V. Ramos? first net rating, in September 1992, was +66. Joseph ?Erap? Estrada?s first net rating, in September 1998, was +60. On the other hand, the initial ratings of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were merely Moderate, at +24 in March 2001 after People Power 2, and at +26 in June 2004 after the election.

The initial ratings of Cory, FVR and Erap were not their high points. Cory went as high as +72 (Excellent), +69, +64 and +57 before reaching her final Very Good +50 in September 1988. Afterwards, she still had a few Good scores, with a +37 in April 1990, but generally she slipped into the Moderate range, and ended at a Neutral +7 in April 1992.

FVR scored as high as +69 and +67 before reaching a final Very Good +50 in December 1994. He lucked out in 1995, due first to the Flor Contemplacion tragedy and then to the rice-price crisis, dropping to only +1 in October 1995. But he recovered handily to Good during 1997, and closed with a Moderate +19 in April 1998. (He told me at the SWS silver anniversary celebration that he is proud of having the best closing rating among all presidents so far.)

Erap, for his part, improved to +61, +67 and +65, but the last of these was in June 1999, and it was his last Very Good score. Afterwards he did no better than a Moderate +28, and ended at +9 in December 2000, at the start of his impeachment trial.

Using the Very Good criterion, the honeymoons of both Cory and FVR extended for two and a half years into their administrations. On the other hand, Erap?s honeymoon only lasted for a year.

Arroyo never had a honeymoon. She had a Poor net -14 as early as March 2003. From October 2004 onward all her scores were negative? several Bad, and two Very Bad. No other president ever went negative.

* * *

SWS terms for net satisfaction and net trust scores: +70 and up, Excellent; +50 to +69, Very Good; +30 to +49, Good; +10 to +29, Moderate; +9 to -9, Neutral; -10 to -29, Poor; -30 to -49, Bad; -50 to -69, Very Bad; -70 and below, Execrable.

* * *

Contact SWS: www.sws.org.ph or mahar.mangahas@sws.org.ph.

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