‘Pag-asa’ versus ‘Pangamba’ | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

‘Pag-asa’ versus ‘Pangamba’

/ 05:05 AM January 02, 2021

When issuing its reports, it is good practice for survey doers to include the exact wording of questionnaire items, in the language of implementation, for the guidance of users. The wording of the New Year item that Social Weather Stations has used in its final round each year, ever since 2000, is: “Ang darating na taon ba ay inyong sasalubungin nang may pag-asa o may pangamba? (Is it with hope or with fear that you enter the coming year?)”

That is the basic Filipino version; there are also versions in Ilocano, Bicol, Cebuano, and Ilonggo, plus other local languages (not “dialects”), depending on the field locations of the survey.


Thus, in this week’s report — Fourth Quarter 2020 Social Weather Survey: “91% of Filipinos enter New Year with Hope; lowest since 2009,” www.sws.org.ph, 12/29/20 — the key words are pag-asa and pangamba, and the time frame is the entry into the new year. We take care not to change a single word, from one survey to another, since the objective is to produce a consistent time series.

From two decades of surveys, we see that the feeling of “hope,” versus the alternative of “fear,” in people entering a New Year is far higher in the Philippines than in Germany, where the hopeful are more in the neighborhood of 60 percent, perhaps for cultural reasons. We cite Germany mainly to acknowledge the item’s originator, the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy, which was founded by political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann. Her classic 1980 book “The Spiral of Silence” may help explain some present puzzles in political popularity.


This survey item is not meant for a New Year “hopefulness contest.” Allensbach uses it in its annual holiday greeting card; we repeatedly use it in tribute to them, and also because we think it helps to understand the Filipino people over time.

The 5-point drop in New Year hopefulness from 96 percent at end-2019 to 91 percent at end-2020 is statistically significant, given the national error margin of 3 points. Likewise significant are the area-drops by 9 points in the Visayas (to 88), by 7 points in Balance Luzon (to 92), and by 6 points in the National Capital Region (to 90); the error margin in an area is at most 6 points. The reason for the national drop of only 5 points is because of the interesting 3-point rise in New Year hopefulness in Mindanao (to 93).

There is no obvious reason why it is Mindanao that bucks the national trend this year. From end-2018 to end-2019, on the other hand, when New Year hopefulness rose by 4 points nationally, the increase happened in all areas except Mindanao, where it fell by 4 points. At that time it was Visayas that had the biggest gain (of 18 points!); but now it is Visayas that has the biggest loss. These are changes to be pondered by area specialists.

The largest one-year national drop in the entire 21-year time series was 9 points, from 90 at end-2003 to 81 at end-2004. The largest one-year increase was 6 points, from 85 at end-2005 to 91 at end-2006. The entire range of the series is 15 points, from a low of 81 to a high of 96. The long-term national average is 91.3. No area is consistently the most hopeful, or consistently the least hopeful.

A number of contemporary conditions are relevant, in the expected manner. This is the year when a record-high 15 percent expect a sad Christmas: Of such people, only 83 percent say they enter the New Year with hope.

In the same survey (done Nov. 21-25), whether one’s Quality of Life (QOL) improved or worsened in the past 12 months hardly matters: Gainers are only fractionally more hopeful about the New Year than Losers.

More relevant is the expectation of change in one’s QOL in the coming 12 months: Optimists are 95 percent hopeful about the New Year, whereas Pessimists are only 81 percent hopeful. Gainers/Losers and Optimists/Pessimists are much more reliable indicators of the people’s well-being than Gross National Product, by the way.

Contact [email protected]

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Mahar Mangahas, optimism for 2021, Social Climate, SWS surveys
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Fearless views on the news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and
acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2021 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.