Social Climate

Filipinos always reject authoritarianism

/ 05:04 AM September 08, 2018

In November 1991, when first polled by SWS, only 45 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with how democracy was working. The proportion became 50 percent in February 1992, in the second and last poll on this matter in the time of Cory Aquino; 50 percent is an easy-to-remember baseline.

Opinions improved considerably under Ramos, when the satisfied percentage hit 70 in September 1992, the first poll after his election. It had majorities of 51-64 in 10 of the next 13 surveys, and never fell below 46.


It recovered to 70 when Estrada was elected, and was 61-70 in the next four polls, up to mid-1999. But it fell below 50 in four of his final five polls (he had 10 in all). The Arroyo time was very bleak, with majorities satisfied with the working of democracy in only 2 of 27 surveys over nine years.

Then, ever since 2010, public satisfaction with the working of democracy has been strong. It was 64-80 percent in nine polls under Noynoy Aquino, and 78-86 percent in three polls so far under Duterte. The long series of 64 national surveys shows that the well-regarded elections of 1992, 1998, 2010 and 2016 were peaks in the popular regard for Philippine democracy.


The people’s choice between democracy and authoritarianism is a separate issue that has been consistently settled in favor of democracy. Since 2002, SWS has regularly asked respondents to choose from three views: 1. “Democracy is always preferable to any other form of government”; 2. “In some situations, an authoritarian government is preferable to a democratic one,” and 3. “For a person like me, whether the government is democratic or not does not matter.” This survey item distinguishes Commitment to democracy, Conditional acceptance of authoritarianism, and Indifference between the two.

SWS has polled this item 28 times in 2002-18, and found Committed Democrats always dominant. In 26 surveys, they were outright majorities of 52 to 65 percent, while Conditional Authoritarians were at most 27 percent. In the other two cases, they were pluralities of 49 percent, versus Conditional Authoritarians of 23 percent. Those Indifferent were 16-28 percent only.

Duterte’s popularity does not affect preference for democracy. In the latest SWS survey on the matter (March 2018), 60 percent of those satisfied with PRRD’s performance were Committed Democrats, while only 18 percent were Conditional Authoritarians. Those dissatisfied with him, on the other hand, had 61 percent Committed Democrats and 21 percent Conditional Authoritarians.

Further polls of Filipino attitudes toward authoritarianism find it rejected, as shown by Mae Labucay and Gene Lacza Pilapil at an SWS forum last week (8/31/18). They titled it “Democracy before Duterte,” because it used four special SWS surveys in 2002-14 for Asian Barometer (AB), a network that now has 14 Asian countries.

Filipinos reject authoritarianism even when polled without the loaded term “democracy.” Here are the Philippine approval rates of a number of statements tested for AB:

“We should get rid of parliament and elections and have a strong leader decide things”—approved by only 30-37 percent in the series of four surveys.

“Only one political party should be allowed to stand for election and hold office”—approved by only 29 to 32 percent.


“The military should come in to govern the country”—approved by only 24-37 percent.

“We should get rid of elections and parliaments and have experts make decisions on behalf of the people”—approved by only 18-27 percent.

Those with authoritarian attitudes are largely the same people; so these percentages are NOT ADDITIVE. The next AB survey will be done later in 2018, and should tell us more about “Democracy under Duterte.”


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TAGS: Aquino, column, democracy, opinion, survey, SWS
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