Exceptionally high public morale
In the 2016 SWS Survey Review, presented last Wednesday at the Asian Institute of Management, the most important news, in my view, was the exceptionally high morale of the Filipino people.
SWS has four survey indicators of public morale: (a) Net Optimism about Personal Quality of Life, (b) Net Optimism about the Economy, (c) Net Gaining from Past Quality of Life, and (d) Satisfaction with Life.
As reported in BusinessWorld on Tuesday, the latest quarterly Social Weather Survey found 45 percent expecting their personal quality of life (uri ng pamumuhay) to improve, and only 5 percent expecting it to deteriorate; the rest expected no change. It was, as usual, a national survey of Filipino adults; it was done on Dec. 5-8, 2015.
The difference of +40 of optimists over pessimists regarding personal quality of life, called Net Personal Optimism, is the new all-time record in SWS survey history. It broke the previous high of +37 in March 2015, just three quarters earlier.
Net Personal Optimism rates of +30 and up are termed Very High. The +40 of December 2015 was the seventh consecutive quarterly Very High. It was the 14th Very High out of 22 quarterly SWS surveys done in the administration of President Noynoy Aquino. Its minimum has been +24, which is “High” (from +20 to +29). Such great optimism is totally unprecedented.
In Cory Aquino’s time, when the SWS surveys were still semiannual, personal optimism was Very High twice, in May 1986 (+31) and in March 1987 (+35), shortly after the ratification of the new Constitution. Its low point was a +6 in July 1991. SWS uses “Mediocre” for scores of +1 to +9, and “Fair” for scores of +10 to +19.
In Fidel V. Ramos’ time, when the SWS surveys became quarterly, it was Very High also twice, in September 1992 (+33) and June 1997 (+33 also). Its low point was a Mediocre +6 in October 1995.
Joseph Estrada’s best was a “High” +26 in July 1998. His worst was a -13 in October 2000.
SWS uses “Low” for scores of -9 to zero, and “Very Low” for -10 or worse.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s best was +36 in June 2010, just before she left office; her previous best was +29 in November 2006. Her worst was a Very Low -13 in March 2005.
Economic Optimism is also Very High. The Social Weather Surveys have a separate question regarding expectations of the economy. Distinguishing the economy from oneself is commonly done in surveys in other countries. People everywhere are much more conservative in appraising the future of the economy than in appraising their own personal future.
In the December 2015 SWS survey, 39 percent expected the economy to improve, whereas only 8 percent expected it to deteriorate, over the coming 12 months. The +30 difference (correctly rounded) between the two, called Net Economic Optimism, is Very High, in SWS terminology (Very High for +10 and up, High for +1 to +9, Fair for -9 to zero, Mediocre for -19 to -10, Low for -29 to -20, and Very Low for -30 or worse). The scale is like this because negative numbers for economic optimism are very common in the Philippines, as they are worldwide.
The SWS quarterly surveys of Economic Optimism started in September 1998. Such optimism was positive only three times in the Estrada administration, and only six times in the Arroyo administration. On the other hand, in P-Noy’s administration it has always been positive, and has been Very High 15 times in 22 surveys.
Net Gaining from the past continues to be positive. In December 2015, 31 percent said that their personal quality of life had improved, and only 27 percent said that it worsened, compared to 12 months ago. The net score of Gainers minus Losers is +5 (correctly rounded), which is “High.”
SWS uses the same scale for Net Gaining as for Net Economic Optimism, since positive scores are extremely rare. People everywhere, not just in the Philippines, are much more modest in comparing their current situation to the past than in making expectations about the future compared to the present.
Positive scores for Net Gaining only happened twice in Cory Aquino’s time (+2 in May 1986 and +11 in March 1987). It never happened, even once, in the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations. Up to 2014, it didn’t happen in P-Noy’s time yet. But it has now happened in every single quarter of 2015.
Satisfaction with life is at a peak since 2002. In September 2015, the last time surveyed by SWS, 41 percent said they were very satisfied, and 47 percent said they were fairly satisfied, with their lives. This 88 percent is the highest in 26 life-satisfaction surveys by SWS since 2002 (irregular; no data for 2007 and 2009).
The percentage was 85, or almost as high, in the two immediately previous surveys of March 2015 and December 2014. The low points of life-satisfaction, on the other hand, had been 61 percent, in both September 2002 and November 2003.
The 2016 SWS Survey Review is mainly favorable to the administration. Long-term movements of poverty and hunger are downward; crime victimization is falling, but with a growing sense of neighborhood insecurity; ratings of governance are almost all positive; businessmen’s reports of corruption in government continue to drop. On the other hand, opinions on the Mindanao peace process are quite divided; the tension with China is worrying the people.
If public morale is so high, why is the administration’s candidate not leading the presidential race? My simple answer: There must be other things that also matter to voters.
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