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Social Climate

No rainbow; it’s still raining

/ 05:20 AM November 24, 2018

Very early last Tuesday, the new Social Weather Stations media release, “Third Quarter 2018 Social Weather Survey: Pinoys maintain anti-Chinese stance on West Philippine Sea issue” (www.sws.org.ph, 11/20/2018), was honored by instant complaints from the presidential spokesman about its timing and alleged unreliability.

The release was based on a nationwide SWS survey fielded on Sept. 15-23, for the purpose of generating public reports during the entire fourth quarter. Its initial report, by tradition the public satisfaction rating of the president, was released on Sept. 29.  The timing of all subsequent releases is at SWS’ discretion.

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Releasing the new West Philippine Sea (WPS) report on the first day of the state visit of the president of China both informs the Filipino people of their collective opinion on this matter, and informs the Chinese visitors and interested foreign observers about the said collective opinion.

All Southeast Asian countries have a direct interest in scientific data about Filipino public opinion on the WPS.  There are American, Japanese and Australian institutions that actively sponsor surveys in the Philippines, from time to time, on various matters of relevance to them.

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China, like most authoritarian countries, is generally averse to polling the opinions of its own citizens on public policy issues. Where, for instance, are the survey numbers about the domestic popularity of Xi Jinping, for comparison with Donald Trump of the United States, or Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines?

Of course, China does have its own survey capacity, and realizes how knowledge of public opinion, internal and external, can be useful to it. In any case, whether or not foreigners give weight to our people’s opinions, surely it does no harm to the Philippines to let them know about it.

The SWS September 2018 survey questions on WPS had already been used before. The previous release, “Second Quarter 2018 Social Weather Survey: 87% say it is important that the Philippines regains control of the islands occupied by China in the West Philippine Sea” (www.sws.org.ph, 7/20/2018), was based on the survey of June 27-30, 2018, the same that led to our July 10 report on high public satisfaction with President Duterte.

The prevalence of a Good rating for presidential performance does not preclude strong public disagreement with one of his foreign policies (see “Repudiation of the pro-China stance,” Opinion, 7/21/2018).

Last June, the state of Filipino opinion on the WPS was already stormy. As usual, the survey questions used were fully disclosed in the SWS report. At that time there was no protest from the Palace, or from any other quarter for that matter, that the survey items were unreliable.

Now, the new SWS release shows that, on the basis of exactly the same questions regarding the WPS, the rainy state of public opinion has persisted from June to September:

• Filipinos saying it is not right for the government to leave China alone with its infrastructures and military presence in the claimed territories are at 84 percent in September, from 81 percent in June.

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• Filipinos saying it is right to strengthen the military capacity of the Philippines, especially the navy, are at 86 percent in September, from 80 percent in June.

• Filipinos saying it is important to regain control of the islands occupied by China in the WPS are at 87 percent in September, the same as in June.

With such strong rain, how can there be a rainbow?

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TAGS: China, column, opinion, survey, SWS, West Philippine Sea
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