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Rare: a heeded survey

/ 05:05 AM October 09, 2021

It’s unexpected for a president, especially the current president, to reverse course in accordance with an opinion poll, as happened last Monday (“Duterte withdrew VP nomination ‘partly’ due to SWS survey: PDP-Laban exec,” ABS-CBN News, 10/4/21), very soon after the report, “60% of adult Filipinos say it violates the intention of the Constitution if President Duterte runs as Vice-President in 2022; only 39% say he should run,” www.sws.org.ph, 9/27/21.

Is this final, or will PRRD ultimately have a re-think, and then say, “Joke only,” as he has done before? Who knows? In any case, last Tuesday I reminded our staff (from my non-executive, emeritus perch) that the SWS reports are intended for the information of the Filipino people in general. They are not addressed to any particular VIP, not even when the report concerns the VIP’s behavior.

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It is well known, from five years’ experience, that the President is dismissive of general public opinion, except when it has nice things to say about him. For him to make a U-turn on his 2022 plans, at this stage, looks out of character to me.

For instance, PRRD did not heed the people’s rejection of the “nanlaban” justification for the extrajudicial killings in his campaign against illegal drugs. He blocked the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise, contrary to the public’s will. He has disregarded the people’s urging for strong resistance to the invasive acts of China in the West Philippine Sea. He has failed to acknowledge the people’s intense distrust of China and, conversely, their deep trust in the United States, both of which contradict his own stance toward these two countries.

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The people deserve to know their collective opinion. One knows one’s own opinion and readily senses opinions in one’s social circles. But only by scientific polling can one know-how, and by how much, the national balance of public opinion tilts on a given issue.

Sixty percent is a strong majority, given the survey’s 3-point error margin for a national proportion. But it is not enough that the elite knows it. The general public deserves to know it too, and, furthermore, to know that the elite knows it. The majority is geographically pervasive: 65 percent in Luzon outside the National Capital Region (NCR), 59 percent in the Visayas, and 56 percent in NCR itself. Only in Mindanao (naturally), where the proportion is “only” 53 percent, is the majority slim. (The area-level error margin is plus/minus 6 percentage points.) Thus, Mindanaoans’ stance on the president’s VP ploy is more loyal to him relative to that of Luzonians.

There is no way for Luzonians, for example, to be certain of the solidarity of their opinions with Visayans, Metro Manilans, and Mindanaoans without listening to and understanding their kababayans from the other areas, who speak in their respective home languages (not mere “dialects”). To know this, they must rely on scientific polling, which is done in several local languages by experienced practitioners.

Details of the people’s opposition. The majority opposition to PRRD’s running for VP cuts across social strata. It is 67 percent among those who did not finish elementary school, 70 percent among elementary graduates, 52 percent among junior high school graduates, and 61 percent among college graduates. It is 58 percent among the self-rated Poor, 61 percent among those who feel Borderline, and 64 percent among the Not Poor.

Low-status Filipinos can be made aware of their solidarity with high-status Filipinos, with whom they hardly mix, with the help of scientific polls. It is not necessary for everyone to learn about polls and how to use them properly. That is the job of the media and of social organizers.

The people’s opposition to PRRD’s VP ploy is logically related to their rating of his job performance: 88 percent opposition among those Very Dissatisfied with it, 83 percent among those Somewhat Dissatisfied, 81 percent among those neither Satisfied nor Dissatisfied, and 62 percent among those Somewhat Satisfied. Only among those Very Satisfied with it does the opposition fall to a minority 42 percent. Could the connection to his favorite survey statistic be the reason for the sudden turnaround?

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TAGS: politics, Rodrigo Duterte, survey
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