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738,102 Valentine cards

/ 12:09 AM February 14, 2015

The 14th of February is the feast of two Valentines, both third-century saints, one a Roman priest martyred on the Flaminian Way, the other a bishop of Terni, martyred in Rome. Both did miracle cures of children of noble parents, who then became Christians; but neither had any connection with lovers. This date became a feast for lovers since it was supposedly a favorite day for birds to mate.

That text is from my collection of SMS-length bios of saints, which I do as a hobby to share with friends, and now has about five saints—not all Catholic, and not all Christian—for each day of the year.

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Today, through this column, and in behalf of my colleagues at Social Weather Stations, I send Valentine greetings to the 738,102 persons who graciously allowed themselves to be interviewed for the SWS surveys in the past 30 years. I hardly know any of them personally, but they know who they are. Their anonymity is guaranteed by Philippine and international codes of professional ethics for survey research.

Our Valentine cards go to people from all walks of life. In the surveys of adults, the samples are evenly divided by gender. The samples for the National Capital Region, Balance of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are weighted by the population census. Their distributions by age and education are realistic, according to the census.

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We love them for giving data that quantify history. A soft copy of each and every one of these 738,102 personal interviews is preserved in the SWS archives, with backups in two offsite locations as contingency against disasters. Thus, only 1.2 percent of the present 60 million adult Filipinos—the standard population from which we draw—have EVER been interviewed by SWS. Their interview records are the raw data of 504 survey datasets, containing 87,965 basic questionnaire items, that are archived as of now.

The SWS archive—actually, any archive of scientifically-done surveys—is literally a priceless historical record. Should the original data and backups get lost, the survey interviews cannot be redone, whatever the price. A poll in 2015 about the coup attempts of August 1987 and December 1989 cannot replace the SWS surveys done right after the attempts. A new poll of businessmen about corruption in the Arroyo regime is no substitute for the SWS surveys of them in those years.

Dividing 738,102 persons by the 504 datasets (of which 244 are national and 260 are subnational) gives a historical average sample size of 1,464 respondents per survey project. Dividing the 87,965 items by the 504 datasets gives a historical average of 174 basic questions (i.e., excluding simple backgrounders like age, gender, education, etc.) addressed to a respondent—normally taking an hour or longer to answer.

Thus, survey respondents are giving very generously of their time, for the sake of research. Many are thrilled by their luck of being included, after understanding that it resulted from a random process of selection, and appreciating their opportunity to voice out the gamut of their sentiments—“their joys, their woes, their highs, their lows”—for the entire country to hear. Simply being heard is already their recompense. So we researchers honor their trust by reporting their responses as fully and as faithfully as we can.

We love them for telling the truth. Our basis for believing that respondents tell the truth is, of course, the general accuracy of surveys in predicting the outcome of elections. It is the litmus test of survey quality everywhere. We urge survey practitioners to participate in the periodic challenge of predicting elections, in order to demonstrate the quality of their work.

Since survey respondents can be believed when telling us the candidates for whom they intend to vote, and how satisfied they are with the performance of certain agencies and officials, it seems to me that they can also be believed when telling us if they have recently gone hungry, or how they regard gays and lesbians—see “SWS Special Report: 85% say gays and lesbians should be protected against discrimination” (www.sws.org.ph, 2/6/2015).

Of course, they should be believed on matters of love life. See the new report, “Fourth Quarter 2014 Social Weather Survey: 51% of Pinoys believe, 29% do not believe, that ‘love is sweeter the second time around,’” by Vladymir Joseph

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Licudine and Christine Belle Torres (www.sws.org.ph, 2/11/2015). The survey found that 49 percent say their love life is very happy, 40 percent say it could be happier, and 11 percent say they have no love life.

Happy Valentine to all, regardless of love life!

* * *

Happy Valentine to the UP School of Economics also. Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of attending the golden jubilee (1965-2015) of the University of the Philippines School of Economics (UPSE), as a jubilarian myself (M.A. 1965).

I very much enjoyed being with the UPSE faculty, and especially its students, in 1965-1981. I moved into full-time research at the Development Academy of the Philippines in 1981-84, and afterwards at SWS, with no regrets, having been able to attract many UPSE people to both. What I sacrificed, consciously, was the new crop of brilliant students each year. But I have always stayed close to my UPSE colleagues, and have just had a very happy reunion with many former students. Happy Valentine to all alumni, staff, and students of UPSE!

* * *

Contact [email protected]

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TAGS: column, Mahar Mangahas, surveys, Valentine's Day
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