A honeymoon with misgivings
The net +64 and net +63 satisfaction ratings of Rodrigo Duterte in his first and second quarters of office are quite normal for a new president. A honeymoon is not quickly halted as soon as the new spouses discover some things about each other that give them misgivings.
Social Weather Stations reported last Thursday that 77 percent were satisfied and 13 percent were dissatisfied with the President in its Dec. 3-6, 2016, survey, while at the same time 51 percent agreed (versus 33 percent that disagreed) that his habit of cursing certain foreign officials harms Philippine foreign relations.
The cursing habit is not the only potential source of public misgivings, of course. This survey item happened to have been processed early. It turns out to be uncorrelated with public satisfaction with presidential performance. But the December 2016 survey also has several other items of relevance, which SWS will study and report in due course.
Although two successive VGs or “very goods” (net scores of +50 to +69) in the survey rating of a president are pleasant for his or her partisans—and disappointing for his or her critics—to see, they are not at all unusual. Furthermore, the initial two ratings give no hint of how long a honeymoon will last.
Ever since regular opinion polling began, all presidents have had honeymoons, with the sole exception of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Cory Aquino’s first rating of +53 in May 1986 was followed by +72 in October 1986, the only Excellent rating of any president in survey history. Cory was at VG or better for at least a year. Only in October 1987 did she fall to a +36, which was a simple Good. Her mediocre rating at the end of her term in 1992 did not prevent multitudes from joining her funeral procession in 2009.
Fidel Ramos’ first two quarterly ratings were VGs very similar to Mr. Duterte’s: +66 and +60 in September and December 1992. (The SWS surveys went quarterly in 1992; previously they were done twice a year.) He was in the +60s until the first quarter of 1994, and then in the +50s up to the end of 1994. That’s a honeymoon of two-and-a-half years.
Joseph Estrada’s first two quarterly ratings were +60 and +61 in September and November 1998, also very similar to Mr. Duterte’s. He continued to have VGs up to the middle of 1999. But in October 1999 he fell to a Mediocre +28, and never recovered thereafter, putting his honeymoon at only one year. Who could have foreseen that by the end of 2000 he would be impeached and under trial by the Senate? And that he would be ultimately ousted by a second People Power?
Gloria Arroyo had no honeymoon at all. She began with a Moderate +24 in March 2001, and was mostly at Moderate while completing Estrada’s term. Her top grade was a single, minimally Good, +30, in March 2004. From October 2004 onward, all her ratings were negative, the pit being a Very Bad -53 in March 2010. She was the most unpopular president.
Noynoy Aquino started with +60 and +64 in September and November 2010. He got VGs in nine of his first twelve quarters, and did not slip to Good until September 2013. His honeymoon of three full years was the longest of Philippine presidents since 1986, when freedom of opinion polling began.
Noynoy had the highest average satisfaction rating of all the presidents. His final rating of a Moderate +29 broke the previous best-finish record of +19, set by Ramos in 1998.
For how long do Filipinos accommodate the quirks of a president? Bear the survey history in mind.
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