Introspective public opinion
To those who impatiently ask for the “latest” survey, we point out that the Social Weather Surveys—i.e., the ones containing the noncommissioned items that we may release to the public—are done quarterly only. Two quarterly rounds have been done this year, one fielded on March 20-23, and the other on June 5-8.
Each round produces many public reports, spaced more or less weekly, starting usually with the satisfaction rating of the president. It takes a week for the data tables to start rolling off the data processing group, and another week for the first reports to be drafted.
At this point in time, how can one tell the effect on public opinion of events like President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address of July 27, the anointment of Mar Roxas as Liberal Party presidential candidate on July 31, and Vice President Jojo Binay’s “true State of the Nation Address” on Aug. 3? Personally, I would prefer not to guess but to wait instead for the next Social Weather Survey, to be fielded in September.
Ideally, I think scientific opinion polls should be done more often, say monthly, sponsored by the private media companies, as is done in advanced countries. There are many private survey institutions (mainly market research companies) with the competence to do them. Even local surveys will be valuable.
Journalists who need to write about current public regard for Noynoy Aquino, Mar Roxas and Jojo Binay, but who don’t have new survey data to consult, can start by reflecting on what has happened to their own opinion. I would rather read a bylined piece of personal views than a so-called “man on the street” interview. Anonymity does not guarantee representativity. The opinions of sincere, well-meaning journalists are interesting to know, whether or not they jibe with opinions in general.
I assume that Filipino journalists, on average, are equally as civic-minded, patriotic, brave, proud, intelligent, rational, courteous and decent as adult Filipinos (who are the ones covered by the surveys) in general. Unless journalists believe their own hype about ratings “soaring” and “plunging,” they should not expect that average Filipinos swallow such expressions, too. For instance, do they think that ordinary consumers literally believe the hype used in advertising commercial products?
Since journalists change their political leanings and allegiances, they are right to think that ordinary adults are capable of the same. But unless journalists’ own opinions go flip-flopping from week to week, they should not expect opinions of average Filipinos to be that volatile.
Demographics might matter. The average Filipino adult is less than 40 years old, or still a child at the time of Edsa I, and has voted in only three presidential elections. Are Filipino journalists just as young? I don’t know.
Where journalists are surely different is in education and in access to media itself. Two out of five adults have not completed high school, or the traditional 10 years of basic education, and only 12 to 15 percent are college graduates. Less than 10 percent read a newspaper even once a week. Only 20 percent listen to the radio daily.
But two-thirds watch television daily, the majority for at least an hour. Television is the prime medium. The basic way for print media reporting to influence the opinion of adults is by the extension of its reporting to television. But I think the average adult pays less attention to politics than the average journalist.
Do any journalists decide their own votes according to opinion polls? I seriously doubt it. If journalists are not influenced themselves, then they should assume the same of ordinary voters.
Voters are independent-minded. The great majority say that their votes are NOT wasted if their candidates lose, not even if they do not expect their candidates to win. In fact, only a few voters let their decisions be affected by opinion polls, and sometimes those who shift their votes to underdogs outnumber those who shift their votes to favorites. The great majority say their vote is entirely up to them and not up to any local political bosses.
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At last Thursday’s reception celebrating the 30th anniversary of Social Weather Stations, our guest of honor was Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. Also present were Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, and Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer, chair of the government peace panel in negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
SWS invited Mr. Iqbal to underscore the duty of opinion polls to give special respect to minority groups. Democracy is for all, not only for the majority. The SWS motto Quot homines tot sententiae means As many opinions as there are people. SWS is gratified for its survey capacity to be of assistance in furthering peace with our Moro sisters and brothers.
The anniversary event also featured the launch of the report, “Filipino Public Opinion on the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the Mamasapano Incident,” published by Social Weather Stations in cooperation with The Asia Foundation. It combines two national surveys, in March 2015 and June 2015, with a special survey of the Core Territories and Nearby Areas of the Bangsamoro in February 2015. The report is downloadable at www.sws.org.ph.
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