The SWS research agenda
Last Thursday’s SWS media release, based on its Nov. 21-25 face-to-face survey, was: “Record-high 91% of adult Filipinos are worried about catching COVID-19,” www.sws.org.ph, 1/7/21. It was the fourth time that SWS surveyed this in 2020. The previous national percentages of those either a great deal or else somewhat worried were 87 in May, 85 in July, and again 85 in September.
Comparing November to the previous May, popular worry rose in all areas except the National Capital Region (NCR), where it fell slightly, from 92 percent in May to 85 percent in November. Elsewhere, percentages grew from 85 to 89 in Balance Luzon, from 91 to 96 in Visayas, and from 85 to 95 in Mindanao. The sampling error margins are plus/minus 3 points for the nation, and plus/minus 6 points for each area.
Those worried now about getting infected by COVID-19 are more than those worried about earlier diseases, based on the SWS surveys at those times: Ebola 82 percent (2014), swine flu 82 percent (2009), bird flu 83 percent (2006) and 80 percent (2004), and severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS 78 percent (2003).
The last SWS release about attitudes toward personal vaccination was: “SWS September 17-20, 2020 National Mobile Phone Survey—Report No. 17: 66% of adult Filipinos are willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” www.sws.org.ph, 11/19/20. It reported 32 percent saying they would definitely get, and 34 percent they would probably get the vaccine if one became available. This item was not in the November 2020 survey, which was crowded with many topics, some still being analyzed before release, but will be resurveyed in 2021.
It benefits the public that multiple opinion polls, from independent groups, are being done. Replications, scientifically done, should tend to confirm each other. They should be studied to see the effects of variations in question wording, interview period, location, mode of implementation, etc. Findings made public should be bolstered by technical reports on producers’ webpages; original raw data should be archived.
What is the Social Weather? SWS focuses on much more than COVID-19. It has an independent research agenda, which it pursues within its own financial and human resources. It does contract research, in order to be financially self-supporting, but also provides room for survey research about the prime mission, which is to track the Social Weather, as befits its name.
The Social Weather—which is formally trademarked by SWS, by the way—is like the meteorological weather, except that it concerns not the atmosphere but the people, and their fluctuating well-being. To understand human well-being and its determinants, it should be scientifically measured and reported over time, with the same regularity, frequency, openness, and reliability as is being done by traditional meteorological weather stations.
The principles underlying such research are in the book “Measuring Philippine Development: Report of the Social Indicators Project,” edited by myself, published by the Development Academy of the Philippines in 1976. This 574-page book has 10 chapters, starting with an overview, going into health and nutrition, learning, economic well-being, poverty, the physical environment, public safety and justice, political welfare, social mobility, and then describing a pilot survey on social indicators in Batangas province, which tested some experimental indicators, including self-rated poverty.
Measuring human well-being requires multiple indicators, a good example being the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030). No single indicator—certainly neither Gross National Product nor any politician’s popularity—will do. SWS’ research agenda is to conduct meaningful surveys to assist in the effort.
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