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Flying, floating, or sinking?

/ 12:11 AM April 11, 2015

After Social Weather Stations’ new release that President Aquino’s net satisfaction rating fell to +11 as of March 20-23, headlines like

“Mamasapano sinks Aquino rating” (Inquirer.net, 4/7/15) became so common; just Google “Aquino sinks.”

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I wonder why journalists are fond of a submarine vocabulary for describing a drop in presidential ratings. Yes, P-Noy’s net rating of +11 is much lower than before. Yet it is definitely flying. It is not merely floating. It has not submerged.

SWS classifies the new score as Moderate, since a double-digit positive net score is distinctly above zero; it is in the air, flying. We use the term Neutral for net scores between -9 and +9, which are not distinct from zero or exact split opinion. Neutral can be called floating, neither flying nor submerged.

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The presidential rating used to be like a plane in the clouds. The plane recently descended in altitude, but is still flying. Is it sensible to say that a plane is “sinking” toward its landing strip? The number +11 may be skimming close to sea level, but it is not diving beneath it.

Actually, from the time of Marcos to the present, I know of no Philippine president with a submerged rating at any time, except one. The exception is Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who submerged for the first time in March 2003 (net -14), for the second time in November 2003 (net -3), and then was permanently submerged from October 2004 (net -6) up to the end of her term (net -17 in June 2010), even going as low as -53 (March 2010), which SWS calls Very Bad.

Write +, not “plus.” In the SWS net ratings, the symbol + is not optional. A reader will say “plus,” but a careful writer should not write it that way. It’s better to write 47-36=+11 than to write “forty-seven minus thirty-six equals plus eleven.”

The reason for writing the + is precisely to remind the audience that this number can conceivably be negative—i.e., to remind them that it is possible for it to submerge.

As to whether the net rating of P-Noy will ever turn negative, I have no idea. It is not my job to speculate on it. SWS will periodically discover and report whatever happens to it—whether it falls further and even submerges, or stays the same, or rises somewhat, or rises a lot.

As a politically nonpartisan institute, SWS does not engage in wishful writing. It would be wrong for us to describe P-Noy’s rating as “sinking,” since it hasn’t sunk, in the critical sense of going below the boundary between favorable and unfavorable public opinion.

North and south have different opinions. The President’s net +11 is the national average resulting from the combination of floating scores in the National Capital Region (Neutral +7) and the Balance of Luzon (Neutral -3) with flying scores in the Visayas (Good +30) and Mindanao (Moderate +25).

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Urban and rural opinions are also different.

P-Noy is merely afloat in urban areas (Neutral +3), but is flying in rural areas (Moderate +23).

I suppose opinions in different areas could merge, as people interact. Northerners could get more alike to southerners, and vice-versa. Urban people could get closer to rural people, and vice-versa. Either way, I can’t see how such interaction would make the average national opinion submerge underwater.

Muslims are giving P-Noy a Very Good grade. In the March 2015 survey, with 5.4 percent of the sample Muslim, 79 percent of them were satisfied and 16 percent were dissatisfied with P-Noy’s performance, for a Very Good +63 net rating.

In the previous SWS survey of December 2014, with 5.7 percent of the sample Muslim, 73 percent were satisfied and 16 percent were dissatisfied with P-Noy’s performance, for a Very Good +57 net rating.

SWS will publish a separate report on presidential ratings by religion in due time.

The call for the President to resign is definitely rejected. The March 2015 SWS survey also found 50 percent disagreeing, and only 32 percent agreeing, with calls for P-Noy to resign; the balance of 18 percent were neutral or indifferent.

Naturally, the opinions about his resigning and satisfaction with his performance are related to each other. The 50 percent opposed to resignation gave him a Good net +31 on his performance. The 18 percent indifferent to it gave him a Neutral net +9 on performance. On the other hand, the 32 percent in favor of it gave him a Poor -19 on his performance.

There is a noticeable polarization of opinions in the NCR in particular: 54 percent were against P-Noy’s resigning, 37 percent were in favor of it, and only a small 9 percent were indifferent. In the Visayas, however, there were more indifferent (28 percent) than in favor (26 percent).

Urban people were also more polarized than rural people: 50 percent against versus 36 percent favoring resignation, and only 14 percent indifferent. Rural people, however, were almost equally indifferent (25 percent) as in favor (26 percent).

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SWS awaits the Supreme Court ruling. The actual ruling of the Supreme Court regarding the dispute between the Commission on Elections and institutions that conduct election surveys has not been released, as of the time I write this column. It is prudent for SWS to study it first, before reacting.

The standing SWS position on this case is in my 2013 column, “Subscribers do not pay for SWS to do a survey” (Opinion, 4/20/13). SWS appreciates the Inquirer’s friendly editorial yesterday, “Afraid of surveys?”

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TAGS: column, Mahar Mangahas, President Aquino, Satisfaction Rating
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