Numbers don’t exaggerate
It’s been about two weeks since SWS reported (BusinessWorld, 10/14/2013) President Noynoy Aquino’s net satisfaction rating at a “good” +49 as of Sept. 20-23, from a “very good” +64 from June 28-30. The 15-point drop was a single downgrade over one quarter, as those satisfied fell by eight points from 76 percent to 68 percent, and those dissatisfied rose by seven points, from 12 percent to 19 percent.
The new SWS report was apparently relished by journalist Amando Doronila (“Pork scam devastates Aquino popularity,” Inquirer, 10/23/2013). On his proclamation that “the streets are in ferment again, as they were in February 1986,” I have no comment since it was not until April 1986 that SWS did its first survey. On his warning that the recent drop in P-Noy’s rating “threatens to become an irreversible free fall,” I have no comment either, except to remind those who forecast the future that hard data come only from the past.
Historically, the +49 of September 2013 is not P-Noy’s worst rating, which was a +42 (also a “good”) in May 2012. There was also a +46 in June 2011 and an earlier +49 in March 2012, from which P-Noy obviously recovered later.
P-Noy’s rating has never been double-downgraded. None of the previous four presidents were as popular as P-Noy is now at the same stage, or at any later stage, of their terms.
President Cory Aquino. In April 1990, the net satisfaction rating of President Cory Aquino was +37, which SWS classifies as “good.” In the next SWS survey in November 1990—we surveyed government performance only twice a year then—her rating was down to only +7, which we call “neutral.” This 30-point fall was a double-downgrade, skipping the category of “moderate.” Cory recovered to +24 by the next survey, in April 1991, but gradually grew less popular again, and closed out with another +7 in April 1992.
President Fidel Ramos. In December 1994, the net rating of FVR was a “very good” +50. But by March 1995 it had fallen by 26 points to a moderate +24, skipping the grade of “good.” It steadied to +24 in June 1995, but then fell by another 23 points by October 1995 to FVR’s all-time low of +1, or neutral.
Thus, FVR suffered a huge drop of 49 points in less than a year, with two double-downgrades, due to the Flor Contemplacion tragedy in the first quarter, and the sudden rice price spike in the third. Yet FVR had not been devastated, since he eventually recovered to a very good +50 again by April 1997. (Perhaps it was because the dissatisfaction in 1995 was not due to corruption scandals? Just guessing.) FVR ended with a moderate +19 in April 1998, the best finisher among all presidents from Ferdinand Marcos to Gloria Arroyo.
President Joseph Estrada. The biggest collapse in Erap’s popularity was not in 2000, but in 1999. From a very good +65 in June 1999, his net rating dropped to a merely moderate +28 in October 1999. It was a double-downgrade of 37 points, skipping the category of “good.” Then, by December 1999, it fell by another 23 points, to a neutral +5, his all-time low. Thus, it had fallen by 60 points from June to December; this would be a better example of “devastating.”
Erap’s rating had only slightly recovered to a moderate +19 in September 2000 when he was struck by the “juetenggate” scandal, and then impeached. It closed with a neutral +9 in December 2000. (Could the greater cause of Erap’s downfall have been the Asian financial crisis? I don’t remember, and leave this to historians to figure out.)
President Gloria Arroyo. In her presidency, GMA started with positive, but at best moderate, ratings from March 2001 up to November 2002. Then it fell by 20 points, from a neutral +6 in November 2002 to a “poor” -14 in March 2003, making her the first—and still the only—president to ever get a negative score. (I think it was because she insisted on sending Filipino soldiers to Iraq, despite earlier opinion polls showing the public opposed to joining the “coalition of the willing.”) Nevertheless, GMA bounced back, and achieved her best rating of +30 in March 2004, just over the boundary of “good.”
In August 2004, GMA’s net rating was a moderate +12. Nobody could have foreseen that it was the last time she would get a positive rating. Then it fell by 18 points to a neutral -6 in October 2004; this was its maximum decline in the course of a single quarter. Thereafter, though it sometimes got deeper into the red, and sometimes got not very deep, it never became positive again, until her term ended. It fell not only to “poor” (between -10 and -29), but also to “bad” (between -30 and -49), and even “very bad” (between -50 and -69), going as low as -50 in July 2008 and -53 in March 2010. In the end, it closed at -17 in June 2010.
Scoring versus forecasting. If P-Noy is getting good survey ratings now, it is due to the feelings of the Filipino people, not the feelings of SWS. SWS only scores public opinion, and does not like or dislike any president, or any public official for that matter. As an advocate of good governance, SWS naturally feels pleased when it sees the people pleased by how they are being governed, and feels the opposite when it sees the opposite. SWS has no “inside information” about the quality of governance.
A good or a bad survey score for a public official isn’t going to change the people’s view of her/him one way or another, any more than a prediction that a certain candidate will win an election will change her/his margin of victory. So, why exaggerate?
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