Movements in popularity
In the first three quarters of this year, there were moderate changes in public satisfaction with the job-performance of both President Aquino and Vice President Jojo Binay, according to the Social Weather Surveys (BusinessWorld, 10/10/2014 and 10/13/2014).
Between March 27-30 and June 27-30, the net rating (i.e., percent satisfied minus percent dissatisfied) of P-Noy changed from +45 (termed “good” by SWS) to +25 (termed “moderate,” for the range +10 to +29). Being the first time to go below “good” since the start of his term, the June rating marked the end of P-Noy’s honeymoon.
In the media, many critics called the 20-point change a “plunge,” as though over a steep waterfall, and some called it a “free fall,” as though resurfacing would be impossible. SWS prefers to refer to it as a single-downgrade.
If the rating had entered the range of -9 to +9, which SWS terms “neutral,” then we would speak of a double-downgrade. If the rating had gone between -10 and -29, which is the category of “poor,” then the change would become a triple-downgrade; and so on.
In the latest SWS survey of Sept. 26-29, however, the net rating of the President recovered to +34, or to the category of “good” (+30 to +49) again. The rise of the presidential net rating by 9 points was sufficient to be termed a single upgrade.
The lesson here is that a downgrade in one quarter, or even consecutive downgrades in two quarters, should not be extrapolated into the future. Neither should one or two upgrades be mechanically extrapolated. I do not regard a change in a net rating as dramatic unless it is at least a double upgrade or a double downgrade.
Between late March and late June, the net rating of VP Binay changed from +73 or “excellent” (+70 and up) to +67 or “very good” (+50 to +69). The drop of 6 points in the second quarter was barely enough to qualify as a single downgrade. In late September, the rating was +52, and thus stayed in the class of “very good,” even though it was 15 points less than in June.
The new vice-presidential rating was front-paged under the main banner, “Binay rating hits record low—SWS,” with sub-banner, “But 52 net grade still highest among execs” (Inquirer, 10/14/2014). On the other hand, the original SWS report (www.sws.org.ph) was “Third Quarter 2014 Social Weather Survey: Net satisfaction ratings at +52 for Vice-President Binay, +16 for Senate President Drilon, +13 for Speaker Belmonte, and +10 for Chief Justice Sereno.”
SWS does not see fit to call attention to the VP’s +52 as being a record low. The categories of “excellent,” “very good,” and “good,” are like awards of gold, silver, and bronze medals given by the people for job performance. They are like medals to students for meeting grade standards in a subject.
A silver medalist does not deserve scorn, just because he had been a gold medalist before. If standards are met, the golds, silvers, and bronzes are unlimited; if not met, there are no awards.
Nor does SWS see fit to compliment the VP for having a higher rating compared to the next three officials, or even compared to the President for that matter, because each official has a different job. A silver-medalist vice-president is not superior to a bronze-medalist president.
The proper comparison is with previous occupants of a position. Students of governance should examine the SWS charts of the ratings of successive presidents, vice presidents, Senate presidents, speakers, and chief justices; the history is very instructive.
As I see it, there is no general crisis of public confidence in our high officials. Almost all their performance ratings are in the positive range, even though their movements over time are uneven.
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Contrast to American polling numbers. On the other hand, consider this ABC News report of last Wednesday:
“Barack Obama and his political party are heading into the midterm elections in trouble. The president’s 40 percent job approval rating in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll is the lowest of his career—and the Democratic Party’s popularity is its weakest in polling back 30 years, with more than half of Americans seeing the party unfavorably for the first time.”
The poll was done on Oct. 9-12, 2014, on a random national sample of 1,006 adults. Corresponding to Obama’s 40 percent approval was 51 percent disapproval. Incidentally, George W. Bush’s approval was only 23 percent by 2008.
“The Republican Party is even more unpopular. But benefiting from their supporters’ greater likelihood of voting, GOP candidates nevertheless hold a 50-43 percent lead among likely voters for U.S. House seats in the Nov. 4 election.”
American voters are 31 percent leaning-Democrat, 21 percent leaning-Republican, and 36 percent independents. Voting turnout is critical, since likely-voters could vary between two-fifths and half of the general population.
“These and other results are informed by an array of public concerns on issues from the economy to international terrorism to the Ebola virus, crashing into a long-run crisis of confidence in the nation’s political leadership. Almost two-thirds say the country is headed seriously off on the wrong track. Even more, three-quarters, are dissatisfied with the way the political system is working.”
The report is by the multiawarded Gary Langer, ABC’s internal pollster for many years. He now has a private company, Langer Research Associates, that provides polling and analysis services to ABC News.
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