Two snapshots of the President’s numbers
If public opinion polling is a snapshot, then two snapshots were widely awaited to see what sort of picture would be the portrait of the presidency on the eve of the filing of candidacies for the 2019 midterms, which have always been a referendum on the incumbent administration. Would it be a fighting-fit snapshot, a picture of an administration in the pink of health? Or would it be the picture of a patient in a ward?
Of the two leading firms, Pulse Asia’s snapshot was taken from Sept. 1 to 7, while Social Weather Stations’ (SWS) was taken from Sept. 15 to 23. While each snapshot is unique, a very broad comparison can be made of the two in one respect, though they call their pictures by different names.
Pulse measures “performance”: Approval, June at 88 percent, September at 75 percent. Undecided, June at 10 percent, September at 15 percent. Disapproval, June at 3 percent, September at 10 percent. The biggest drop in approval was 13 points among Class D, from 87 percent to 74 percent; followed by Class ABC, from 84 percent to 72 percent. The biggest rise in indecision was Class E from 5 percent to 10 percent, and Class D from 10 percent to 15 percent. The biggest increase in disapproval was a tie of 9 points each for Class ABC (4 percent to 13 percent) and Class D (2 percent to 11 percent). Geographically, Balance Luzon had the biggest drop in approval, from 83 percent to 66 percent, followed by the National Capital Region from 83 percent to 72 percent. Undecided had six-point increases in both Balance Luzon (14 percent to 20 percent) and Mindanao (from 1 percent to 7 percent).
SWS measures “public satisfaction”: Satisfied, June at 65 percent, September at 70 percent. Undecided, June at 15 percent, September at 14 percent. Dissatisfied, June at 20 percent, September at 16 percent. In terms of satisfaction, Class ABC fell from 79 percent to 64 percent, followed by Class E from 69 percent to 64 percent, but recovered in Class D from 63 percent to 71 percent. Satisfaction grew back the most in Balance Luzon from 57 percent to 67 percent. Indecision grew the most in Mindanao, from 7 percent to 13 percent, but decreased elsewhere. Dissatisfaction was unchanged in NCR, and again decreased the most in Balance Luzon from 24 percent to 18 percent.
What the two pictures suggest is that the range of satisfaction with the President ranges from 7 out of 10 (SWS) to 3 out of 4 people (Pulse), nationwide; dissatisfaction from 1 out of 10 (Pulse) to 1.6 out of 10 (SWS). Here I’d suggest—merely as a theory, mind you—that in our famously nonconfrontational (and cautious) culture, the “undecided” are actually dissatisfied, but aren’t prepared to say it yet: So add their 1.4 out of 10 (SWS) to 1.5 out of 10 (Pulse).
The two pictures also tell us that President Duterte’s biggest problem at present is with the middle and upper classes, broadly speaking, while he has done best in recovering his standing among residents of Balance Luzon, in comparison to NCR, where people’s opinions seem to have gelled. This is the political cost of everything from inflation to the rising cost of fuel, to the downturn in confidence in the economy and its managers, and the President gleefully and blithely breaking a taboo too far with respect to things like fearing God.
But then, how to explain the rise in his standing in the vastness — and vote-richness — of Balance Luzon?
It is this part of the country that single-handedly boosted the President’s standing, saving him from the implications of a two-survey drop, had it happened, in terms of SWS. It would have been interpreted by all quarters as a sign of an administration in decline; instead, having recovered in terms of SWS, the President’s people can say that things have stabilized, especially since the big drop in Pulse numbers was for a period prior to the SWS poll.
But there will remain the nagging suspicion that, while by any measure the President’s numbers are more than good — they are, in fact, phenomenal, both suggesting an average of 7 out of 10 Filipinos content with the President and all his works — they could have been what they once were: stratospheric. That’s the undeniable reality — that the President, for all his strengths, is also his biggest enemy (as, in truth, all presidents are: The odds are stacked up against any opposition so lopsidedly that it requires a presidential fumble, or two or three, to revive what is always a terminally flat opposition — because recently defeated at the polling precincts — at the start of any president’s term).
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