Observing public satisfaction
The new Social Weather Survey, of Sept. 23-27, 2017, observed that 67 percent of Filipino adults were satisfied with the performance of Rodrigo Duterte as president, while 19 percent were dissatisfied, and 14 percent were undecided. This observation is summarized by the net satisfaction rate +48, derived from 67 minus 19. It is classified by SWS as Good (between +30 and +49).
The September 2017 survey was the fifth quarterly SWS survey in the Duterte administration. The preceding four surveys obtained net satisfaction rates of +64, +63, +63 and +66, respectively, all Very Good (between +50 and +69).
The steadiness of the first four quarters contrasts with the 18-point drop between June and September. Though SWS had no surveys in July and August, it is realistic to suppose that the net rating dropped gradually, by an average of 6 points per month, rather than all at once in September.
The geographic composition of the drop is very interesting. The rating fell by 19 points in Metro Manila, by 22 points in the Balance of Luzon, and by a massive 30 points (i.e., 10 points per month) in the Visayas. But it rose, by 1 point, in Mindanao.
Mindanao is, obviously, not only Mr. Duterte’s bailiwick but also the most concerned about ending the severe conflict in Marawi. I leave it to local analysts to account for the double-downgrade (from Excellent to Good) of his popularity in the Visayas.
I don’t see why the national downgrade from Very Good to Good should make Duterte partisans nervous. I define a honeymoon as persisting with a grade of at least Good, and ending only when the rating permanently falls to grades of Moderate (+10 to +29), or lower.
Though the Duterte honeymoon is not over, it is still far from matching the accomplishment of most preceding presidents.
Cory Aquino’s rating ranged between Excellent and Good in nine surveys from 1986 to mid-1989, or a honeymoon of three and a half years. It was +29 in September 1989, and climbed over +30 only once in eight surveys afterward. (The SWS surveys went quarterly in 1992.)
Fidel Ramos rated either Very Good or Good from 1992 to the end of 1994. Only in March 1995, or after two and a half years, did he fall to Moderate. He even had a second honeymoon of Good/Very Good in all four quarters of 1997.
Joseph Estrada’s rating was Very Good in his first four quarters. Then it fell by two grades to a Moderate +28 in his fifth, and never recovered.
Gloria Arroyo, on the other hand, had no honeymoon. Her rating was Good only once (+30 in March 2004). It went through Poor, Bad, and even Very Bad from October 2004 to mid-2010.
Benigno Aquino III’s rating was Good/Very Good from September 2010 to March 2014, or three years and three quarters, the record-longest honeymoon. In the next nine quarters it was Moderate four times and Good five times.
In analyzing the presidential rating, I think that journalists focus too much on events that occurred during or soon before the field work of the survey. Since the rating actually moves monthly, if not weekly, then ALL the events between two adjacent surveys should be taken into account.
As an econometrician by training, I think the ideal research would be to estimate a statistical model with the presidential rating as a main dependent variable, and having not only political/economic/social events but also the state of the people’s personal wellbeing as independent factors.
The latter would include indicators of poverty and hunger, personal optimism, satisfaction with democracy and public institutions, anxieties about public security, the state of the environment, and so on. Surely there are many more things besides the war on drugs that affect the people’s satisfaction with their president.
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