The ‘surprising’ 1985 survey | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

The ‘surprising’ 1985 survey

/ 05:12 AM March 09, 2019

The series of Social Weather Surveys, from 1986 onward, is actually a spinoff from two surveys of the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development (BBC), done on April 3-24, 1984 and June 15-July 22, 1985.

This week, from a dusty storage box at home, a journalist’s account of the reception to the 1985 BBC survey serendipitously emerged. “The BBC launching of the nationwide socio-political opinion survey Aug. 28 turned out to be an evening of mixed surprise and disbelief flavored by a few incisive remarks which somehow soothed disappointed and disgruntled souls,” wrote Chay O. Florentino (“1985 BBC Socio-political survey: ‘Many/very many will vote for Marcos’,” Mr. & Ms., 9/6-12/1985).


“According to the survey, people say they are optimistic about their future and yet claim to be hard up economically, threatened by NPAs, affected by deteriorating peace and order conditions, and fearful that others may become violent in promoting democracy,” Florentino reported.

Optimistic about quality of life in the next year were 36 percent; Pessimistic were 26 percent (or net +10, recovered from net -4 in 1984). Gainers in quality of life from the year before were 9 percent; Losers were 56 percent (net -47, down from net -39 in 1984, second-worst on record, exceeded only by net -50 in June 2008). Self-rated Poverty among families was at its peak of 74 percent, due to the hyperinflation of 50 percent in 1984 and 25 percent in 1985.


A majority 61 percent said that the President should not have the power to issue decrees, and an even greater 65 percent said he should not have the power of ordering Preventive Detention. The percentage saying that Filipinos might eventually lose faith in peaceful means of promoting democracy was at 42, up from 38 in 1984.

Yet, satisfaction with the performance of President Marcos was 44 percent, while dissatisfaction was 25 percent (net +19, down slightly from net +23 in 1984—both ‘moderate’ in present SWS terminology). The proposition that “It will be good for the country if the President declares Martial Law again” found opinions split into 37-agree, 30-undecided, and 33-disagree.

The audience’s biggest disappointment was obviously that 52 percent felt that “very many/many” would vote for Ferdinand Marcos if he ran for President again—notwithstanding the clarification that no opponent was named by the question. Florentino observed: “Significantly, respondents were asked: ‘How many do you think will vote for Mr. Marcos?’ rather than ‘Will you vote for Mr. Marcos?”  (The following November, when Marcos suddenly called for a snap election by February, his partisans claimed that the BBC survey predicted victory.)

The BBC survey listed eight prominent oppositionists and asked who among them had the greatest capability to be President. The responses, in percentages, were: Doy Laurel 29, Jovito Salonga 16, Butz Aquino 15, Cory Aquino 8, Eva Kalaw 5, Aquilino Pimentel 4, Jose Diokno 3, and Ramon Mitra less than 1.

Florentino wrote: “Neither can the eight Opposition candidates named in the survey gauge their strength or weakness against their KBL opponents; among each other, however, they can. Evidently, Fr. Bernas declared, ‘The Opposition must get their act together and settle for only one presidential candidate.’ Very similar to the ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ theory.”

“As expected, not everyone was completely pleased with the survey results… There was a marked effort to interpret the results away, observed one social scientist. The element of fear, the bias for smooth interpersonal relationships, the lack of education, were among the reasons (excuses perhaps?) cited for such startling results.”

Fast-forward to 2019; are survey-watchers much different now?

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TAGS: 1985, Aquino, Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference, Laurel, Mahar Mangahas, marcos, Mitra, NPA, political, Salonga, survey, SWS
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