History, by the numbers | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

History, by the numbers

/ 05:04 AM January 08, 2022

The Social Weather Survey is SWS’ regular project for its own agenda of items for general information, the bulk of which are designed for historical analysis. It is internally funded, and has been done quarterly since 1992.

The year’s final survey, fielded in November or December, normally looks into public expectations for Christmas and the New Year, for reporting before the holidays. Then its findings on more serious topics are written up for release the following January to March, during which time the First Quarter survey is fielded, for reporting in April to June, and so on. The reports are posted on www.sws.org.ph; the data are permanently archived at SWS.


Survey numbers about public safety, including the war on illegal drugs. Let’s flash back two years to January 2020, before the pandemic disrupted everything, including social survey operations. There were six media releases that month, based on the Dec. 13-16, 2019 Social Weather Survey.

The first two were: “78% of Filipinos believe, and 7% do not believe, that there are ’ninja cops’ in the police force” (1/7/20), and “76% of Filipinos see many human rights abuses in the administration’s war on illegal drugs, 24% see few” (1/15/20). These were consistent with earlier findings that few believe in the “nanlaban” or “they fought back” excuse of the administration for the large death toll of that war.


The SWS surveys find that the people’s fears of their homes being vulnerable to burglary, and of their neighborhood streets being unsafe to walk at night, are as high as before. Victimization by common crimes—pickpocketing, robbery from the home, physical violence, car/motorcycle theft—is also stagnant; the only decline seems to be the visibility of drug addicts. The survey data being collected on public safety have outrun the capacity to write reports about them.

Survey numbers about government performance. The third SWS media release of January 2020 was: “President Duterte’s Net Satisfaction at new record ‘Excellent’ +72” (1/21/20). That was the last SWS presidential rating report until it could resume face-to-face (F2F) interviewing in November 2020. SWS was forced by the lockdown to shift to mobile phone surveying in May, July, and September 2020. The phone interview had to be short, much of it dealing with the pandemic, leaving no space for the usual battery of governance indicators.

SWS’ next net ratings for the President were +79 in November 2020, +65 in May 2021, +62 in June 2021, and +52 in September 2021 (see “Pres. Duterte’s net rating drops 10 points to +52, but still ‘Very Good’,” 10/29/21).

Survey numbers about human wellbeing. The other SWS media releases in pre-pandemic January 2020 were: “Self-Rated Poverty rises by 12 points to 5-year high 54%,” (1/23/20); “Quarterly Hunger decreases to 8.8%,” (1/24/20); and “Net Gainers up 7 points to ‘Very High’ +18,” (1/29/20). These indicators continued to operate during the interim of mobile phone surveying—except for Self-Rated Poverty (SRP), which only resumed in November 2020 since it requires F2F interviewing.

The basic SWS Quality of Life indicators all suffered catastrophic worsts in Year One of the pandemic: Losers were 82 percent of adults in May 2020; Hunger was 30.7 percent of families in September 2020; Joblessness was 39.5 percent of adults in September 2020.

In general, human wellbeing is only partially up from the depths of 2020, and is miles away from pre-pandemic 2019. The latest Net Gainers is -44 (10/26/21); SRP is 45 percent of families (11/27/21); Hunger is 10.0 percent (12/06/21); Joblessness is 24.8 percent (12/13/2021). Updates for late 2021 are forthcoming.

Numbers about the pandemic. What SWS has been seeing, from its probability samples of the people at large, is: their intense fear of infection, general cooperation with the health protocols, eagerness for vaccination—if the supply is available—with preferences for brands and country of origin, appreciation of whatever government assistance there is, and disappointment that it is so little.


The pandemic statistics in the daily media are institutional—from hospitals, clinics, and laboratories, as collected and processed by the Department of Health. I can easily imagine how big a job it already is, but can’t help hoping for more data, such as the ages, vaccination status, and medicines of those stricken.


Contact: [email protected]

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