The SWS presidential surveys | Inquirer Opinion

The SWS presidential surveys

In a commentary published in Inquirer Opinion (“The Prez and PR,” 4/28/18), my favorite humorist Mart del Rosario raised a question that begs for a rejoinder: “Why is it,” my ex-PR student asked, “that the more President Duterte ignores PR precepts, the more devotees he’ll gather? Many of his words are a mixture of threat and intimidation. They will earn no goodwill, will win no Anvil Award. Despite the President’s trampling of PR’s sacred law, his SWS approval rating stays briefly in the 70s and then swings merrily back to its longtime perch, the 80s.”

Apparently, Mart has misinterpreted the Social Weather Stations surveys. He and the other PR doubting Thomases should visit the SWS website and examine the net satisfaction ratings of Philippine presidents from May 1986 to March 2018. They will see that presidents who do good and tell their story well, who perform their job in accordance with the precepts of good PR, do generate the most goodwill and garner the highest SWS trust ratings.


Except for Gloria Arroyo, all Philippine presidents enjoyed excellent ratings at the beginning of their term. Cory Aquino had excellent ratings of +72 in October 1986, +69 in March 1987, and +64 in March 1988, but ended her term with an average of +35 in 1992. Fidel V. Ramos also had excellent ratings of +66 in September 1992, +69 in July 1993, and +67 in April 1994, ending his term with an average of +38 in 1998. Joseph Estrada began his abbreviated term with +60 in September 1998, +67 in March 1969, and a huge drop to +5 in March 2000. He ended his term with an average of +33.

Arroyo began her presidency with a rating of +24 in March 2001, followed by +17, +18, +16 and +15 in April, May, July and September, respectively. On her second year, she got +16 in March, +4 in May, +18 in September and +6 in November 2002. But beginning her third year, she dropped in net satisfaction with an average of 0 in 2003, +11 in 2004, -25 in 2005, -16 in 2006, -9 in 2007, -33 in 2008, -35 in  2010, and an average rating of -7 in 2010 for her entire 10-year term. Her ratings during her last five years were constantly in the negative (-).


Benigno Aquino III had +60 in September and +64 in November 2010. He sustained excellent ratings during his second and third years with +67 in August 2012 and +64 in June 2013. He had an average of +53 in 2011 and +53 also in 2012, and did even better in 2013 with an average of +55. He obtained an average of +45 in 2016 for his entire 6-year term.

President Duterte began his term with excellent ratings of +64 in September and +63 in December 2016. He followed this with excellent ratings of +63 in March and +66 in June 2017, but dropped to +48 in September. He bounced back to +58 in December 2017 and dropped to +56 in his latest ratings in March 2018.

The SWS survey covering March 23-27, 2018, found 70 percent of adult Filipinos satisfied, 17 percent undecided, and 14 percent dissatisfied with Mr. Duterte’s performance. This gave him a net satisfaction rating of +56 (70 percent satisfied minus 14 percent dissatisfied), which is classified by SWS as very good. But it does not say how many of the 70 percent satisfied are “somewhat” or “very” satisfied; nor does it give an inkling as to how many of the 17 percent undecided would say they are satisfied or dissatisfied if the interviewer had probed a bit further.

The SWS survey is just an opinion-attitude measurement of a president’s job performance based on a face-to-face interview among 1,200 randomly selected respondents. In the words of Mahar Mangahas, the SWS survey is very limited in nature, and the results should be viewed as indicators rather than sweeping conclusions. A survey is a snapshot of public opinion. It tells us what people were thinking at a specific point in time.

The survey question on public satisfaction with the President is as follows: “Maaari po bang pakisabi ninyo kung gaano kayo nasisiyahan o hindi nasisiyahan sa pagganap ng tungkulin ni Rodrigo Duterte bilang Presidente ng Pilipinas. Kayo ba ay lubos na nasisiyahan, medyo nasisiyahan, hindi tiyak kung nasisiyahan o hindi, medyo hindi nasisiyahan, lubos na hindi nasisiyahan, o wala pa kayong narinig o nabasa kahit na kailan tungkol kay Rodrigo Duterte?”  “Please tell me how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with the performance of Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines. Are you very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, undecided if satisfied or dissatisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, very dissatisfied, or you have not ever heard or read anything about Rodrigo Duterte?”

Mart, are you somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, somewhat satisfied or very satisfied?

Charlie A. Agatep is chair and CEO of Grupo Agatep.

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TAGS: Duterte, opinion, PR, SWS
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