Survey an admonishing sign?
This is regarding the article “84% of Filipinos satisfied with democracy in PH —SWS poll.”
First, Social Weather Stations made it clear that the survey had not been “commissioned” but “done on SWS’ own initiative and released as a public service.” The clarification is in order, because polls are generally done for purchasers of poll data—politicians, newspapers, government agencies, businesses and the like.
Second, polls, not being deliberative, are not a perfect mechanism for measuring public sentiment. One reason for that criticism, according to German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, is the tendency of people to remain silent when they see that their views diverge from the majority’s view. Thus, members of the minority would even switch to the majority view, or lie about what they feel, or simply silence their own views, thereby producing an even larger majority for the next poll. This is called the “spiral of silence.”
The SWS survey question on satisfaction with democracy reads: “On the whole, are you… (Very satisfied; Fairly satisfied; Not very satisfied; Not at all satisfied) with the way democracy works in the Philippines?”
On preference for democracy, the question is as follows: “Which of the following statements comes closest to your own opinion? (Democracy is always preferable to any other kind of government; Under some circumstances, an authoritarian government can be preferable to a democratic one; For people like me, it does not matter whether we have a democratic or a nondemocratic regime).”
The bottom line, according to the survey, is that Filipinos, or 84 percent of them, are “satisfied with the way democracy works” in the Philippines. However, only 20 percent “sometimes prefer authoritarianism.”
Bum steer or not?
There is another way of interpreting these survey results: That the spiral of silence, so to speak, is working in reverse against the authoritarian tendencies of the Duterte administration, as there’s been a spike in Filipinos affirming their deep-rooted beliefs in democratic processes, values and principles, while only a trifling minority prefer a nondemocratic regime.
So, is an admonishing sign a cause to celebrate?
ABE N. MARGALLO email@example.com
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