Wanted: number-streams | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Wanted: number-streams

/ 12:24 AM October 01, 2016

Numbers about the President. For some weeks now, many have been impatiently asking for whatever survey SWS has about President Duterte.  Among them are those who know that the Social Weather Survey is a quarterly, but may have forgotten that the Second Quarter round was fielded on June 24-27, just before PRRD’s induction. Patience. The Third Quarter round will soon be feeding into new SWS reports about governance and other aspects of the social weather.

Can the survey number stream flow faster?  Yes, given, first of all, sufficient resources. In wealthy countries, opinion polls are done monthly, weekly, and even daily, funded mainly by their media companies. In the Philippines, however, the media companies get interested in sponsoring monthly surveys only in the last six months of an election campaign.


The second requisite is continuance of the research freedom that survey institutions have enjoyed ever since the restoration of democracy in 1986.  Such freedom cannot be taken for granted.  Two Supreme Court decisions were needed in order to allow exit polling (G.R. No. 133486, ABS-CBN v. Comelec, Jan. 28, 2000) and to void legislation banning publication of voting preference surveys in the last 15 days before an election (G.R. No. 147571, SWS v. Comelec, May 5, 2001). But who knows what new restrictions might be dreamed up by politicians who get irritated by opinion polls?

Satisfaction with the performance of the President. It is SWS’ policy that its first media release from a quarterly survey should be the people’s satisfaction with presidential performance.  Every survey asks the satisfaction question. It is run on SWS’ own account, without any external sponsor.


Its results are always published; no one has authority to suppress them. In the normal six-year term of a president there will be a stream of 24 quarterly SWS survey readings of public satisfaction with presidential performance.

Being satisfied with a person’s performance as an official is not the same as trusting him. Furthermore, both feelings are not the same as liking him as a person. Liking is another feeling that can also be polled, which we have done before and might do again.

Incidentally, SWS always uses the word satisfaction, not the word approval, to describe the attitude toward an official’s performance. “Satisfactory” performance meets a higher standard than “approved” performance. The latter only means a passing grade.  It allowed me, in my time as a teacher, to pass, in good conscience, some students whose performance did not satisfy me.

From time to time, SWS has asked separate questions about the quality of an official’s performance and about trust in him, in the same survey.  But SWS is forced to ask about trust instead of performance when the person being assessed has no official position, and thus no official duties to perform—as at the time of the June survey, when Mr. Duterte was not yet inducted into office.

What will Mr. Duterte’s initial presidential satisfaction rating be? I have absolutely no idea. I am just as curious as anyone else to find out.

One can see the historical precedents—i.e., the initial satisfaction ratings of Presidents Cory Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Arroyo, and Noynoy Aquino in the SWS records. It would be normal to expect the first rating of PRRD to be somewhere in the range of past experience. If it falls outside (either above or below) the historical range, then it will register a true change in citizens’ evaluation of a president’s initial performance.

There is nothing peculiar in the questionnaire for the Third Quarter Social Weather Survey that would induce a respondent to feel either more satisfied or more dissatisfied with the President. There is no special training of the field interviewers as to what answer to expect.  They know our standard guidelines: There is no correct answer or wrong answer to any question; different respondents will have different answers.  Their only task is to elicit each respondent’s true answer, befitting their employment in a nonpartisan, nonprofit scientific institute.


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Numbers about extrajudicial killings (EJKs). The reports about EJKs have been steadily streaming, with the numbers growing rapidly ever since PRRD took office.  It seems that some numbers are being reported by the police, and some are being compiled by the media. The participation of private organizations in gathering data is good and admirable.  It reminds me of the courageous work by the Task Force Detainees in the time of martial law.

But when did these number-streams begin?  How many years ago did the police and other groups start collecting such data? How do EJKs get classed as “drug-related”?  What are the standards for EJKs, from recorded history, as to how much is normal and how much is excessive?

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Numbers about the US presidential race. For a very useful overview of the American surveys, I recommend Nate Silver’s projects.fivethirtyeight.com (see “Hillary holds on,” Opinion, 9/24/16). As of Sept. 16, the odds of Hillary Clinton defeating

Donald Trump were about 60/40. By last Thursday evening (Eastern time), two days after the

first American presidential debate, the odds for Clinton had risen to 64/36.

On Sept. 16 the forecast electoral college score (270 needed to win) was Clinton 289, Trump 248.  By Thursday it was 293-245.  But it’s still close.  Florida’s 29 electoral votes would tip the race toward Trump if he can overcome his current deficit of less than 4 percentage points.

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TAGS: President Duterte, Social Weather Survey
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