Photo courtesy of GMA NETWORK

by Tony Lopez

Rodrigo Roa Duterte remains hugely popular but the Filipino people’s patience with him has begun to wear thin after 15 months as president.

That is the conclusion one can make out of the apparently conflicting surveys of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) (Sept. 23-27, 2017) with 1,500 respondents, and Pulse Asia (Sept. 24-30, 2017), with 1,200 respondents.

Note that in statistics (I took up two semesters of Stat in my MBA course), the bigger the number of people interviewed (respondents), the more accurate the survey supposedly is, since a higher number is closer to the size of the population (the universe).   Also, the more recent the survey, the more accurate it is supposed to be and the closer it is to reality. 

I was also taught by my Stat prof that a survey margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent is not very useful; hence, garbage. The maximum margin of error should be 2 percent.   SWS says its sampling error is 2.5 for national percentages; 4 for Balance of Luzon, and 6 for Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao.  So read and interpret surveys with a grain of salt.  This is not to say to people behind SWS and Pulse Asia are not professionals.  They are professionals – as surveyors or pollsters.

According to SWS, Duterte’s satisfaction rating fell 11 percentage points to 67 percent in September 2017 from 78 percent in June 2017.   In percentage terms, the drop is 16 percent.  SWS, however, has the habit of netting the 67 percent out by deducting the percentage dissatisfied with Duterte—19, resulting in net satisfaction rating of +48.

This net satisfaction rating is reduction of 16 points or 27 percent, from +66 to +48 between June and September.  That is the steepest fall in net satisfaction rating for Duterte in five surveys, and one of the deepest drops for any  sitting president since SWS started making net satisfaction ratings surveys which covered six presidents since Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, a period of 30 years.

I cannot understand why SWS has to net out the 67 percent, since 67 implies a 33-point reduction from 100 points, the base figure.  That is why 100 minus 33 is  67.   Why reduce that figure (67) further by deducting the dissatisfied (19 percent) when the 19 is already a reduction from 100?  The method results in double reduction, resulting in Duterte appearing to be less popular than he should be.  The fact is 67 percent (nearly 7 of every 10) are happy with Duterte’s performance, period.   

In terms of number of people trusting the President, that is even higher, 73 percent (7 of every 10 people). 

Still, SWS insists on deducting the percentage of the people with little trust in the President, 12 percent, resulting in a net trust of +60.  Actually, if you want to know the number of people who either trust him much or have little trust in Duterte, just add 73 (much trust) and little trust (12).  The sum (73 plus 12) is 85.  Make this 85 the new base of 100 points; so divide 73 by 85, what you get is an even higher trust figure—85.88 percent of the people have trust in Duterte.

In this light, one can then appreciate the apparently different and more positive Pulse Asia findings on Duterte.

Pulse Asia, interviewing at least 1,200 respondents also in the last week of September, found that 77 percent of the respondents (who are said to represent the Filipino people) are satisfied with Duterte’s performance.  The number or percent of the people  dissatisfied declined by one percentage point to 14, from 13.

I suspect that Duterte’s people know when the surveys are being conducted by SWS and Pulse Asia.  That is why they apparently calibrate the President’s decisions on critical issues and manipulate events during the survey period.

Among the positive developments during the survey periods Sept. 23 to 30: minimum wages were increased effective Oct. 5; the stock market hit a new record, 8,300 and continued climbing after that; the filing of impeachment complaints against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Commission on Elections Chair Andres Bautista; the shaming of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales (for her alleged partiality and selective justice), Duterte’s threat to form a commission to investigate corruption at the Office of the Ombudsman,  firing of the leftist Agrarian reform secretary, and the firing of a pro-Ayala Information and Technology secretary for conflict of interest and apparent corruption.

What is the basis for increasing minimum wages– already the highest in Southeast Asia outside Singapore?  Nothing, except higher prices.  Who is to blame for higher prices?   The government.

What is the basis for the stock market scaling a new high?  Nothing.   In fact, stock prices should go in reverse direction.  Shares of stock of listed property companies are selling at 40 to 60 times the companies’ expected profits.   Imagine that—your P100 million profit being valued at P6 billion?  Why?

All these things are a perception game.  In the meantime, small and poor people continue to be 90 percent of drug killings.  MRT3, used by 400,000 daily, continues to break down daily with predictable regularity.  Two million people are out of work.  Another 8 million have jobs they do not like because they are overqualified.    It still takes weeks to get your passport.  It still takes months to get your driver’s license and car plate.  And only three of 75 Build, Build, Build infra projects will be completed by the Duterte government during his remaining time in office.

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