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Are preelection presd’l polls mere gimmicks

12:02 AM January 06, 2016

IN MID-2015, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo urged the faithful not to be swayed by preelection surveys as “these are gimmicks.” After the serial release of several survey results in the last six months, an Inquirer editorial came out with a reminder: Survey results are indicative of voter preferences only during the time a particular survey was conducted (“Survey snapshots,” Opinion, 12/26/15).

Poll queries—like “Who will you probably vote for as president if elections were held today?”—should only guide candidates. If used to “mislead” voters, it could create a “bandwagon” effect that could lead to the election of an undeserving candidate in May 2016.

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Significantly, survey results have been dictated lately by negative issues, the indecisiveness of candidates even just on the question of whether to run for president or not, or their lack of qualifications, or corruption, human rights violations and such other matters that intrigue or are sensational.

The survey results flashed on primetime TV and given front-page prominence are beginning to appear “calibrated.” The Pacquiao-Bradley rematch in April guarantees United Nationalist Alliance candidates months of primetime media exposure at the grassroots and a “fat purse,” whether Manny Pacquiao wins or loses. Pacquiao himself—with a solitary knockout punch doing the talking on top of a boxing ring in faraway Las Vegas instead of campaign speeches around the Philippines—could win a Senate seat and even make it to the top 3 among the senatorial winners.

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On presidential polls “bankrolled with big money,” there are riveting “exposés” and dramatic developments that seem to have been timed with prescheduled surveys. For example: The Senate blue ribbon subcommittee “plunder report” was issued on May 29, 2015, a day before the start of the May 30-June 5 survey whose results were aired on June 18, 2015; and there was the decision on disqualification cases before a December 2015 survey, which reversed the May-June June 18 presidential poll results.

When is the appropriate moment to conduct preelection surveys? Right after every presidential debate on such issues as reproductive health, food security, death penalty, West Philippine Sea maritime dispute with China, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, and exploitation of natural resources.

The issues relative to the “Makati plunder” and “Tacloban Yolanda” appear to have been discounted in survey results. Poll rankings seem to be at the mercy of big surprises from Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte or Sen. Grace Poe, which also dictate the rise or fall of Vice President Jejomar Binay and former secretary Mar Roxas in the surveys.

—MANUEL Q. BONDAD, Makati City

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