This is a version of the printed column written by eminent columnist Philippine Star Dick Pascual. Re printed with permission here at Currentph.com
THE RATHER high 91-percent approval and trust ratings garnered by President Duterte in the latest Pulse Asia survey are beginning to look quite costly for the private pollster’s professional reputation.
The result of the nationwide survey that it conducted Sept. 14-20 among 1,200 adults was met with incredulous howls among those who could not see how one who has failed to rein in the COVID-19 scourge, revive the stalled economy, and stop big-time corruption could rate 91 percent.
Not a few skeptical readers asked why, if those behind what they derided as the “False Asia” survey were going to fool around with numbers anyway, they stopped at 91 when they could have pushed it up to 101 percent?
They said the pollster could have gone all the way and did not have to allow a token 5 percent of respondents to disapprove of Duterte or let 3 percent to say they have little or no trust in him. Perhaps they had in mind leaving space for higher ratings in the next surveys?
The most unkind critics insinuated that the survey has been bought. Then some of those who could not find a better explanation for Duterte’s improving on his 87-percent approval rating in December 2019 blamed the people for their supposed misplaced adulation.
One problem of those who question the poll results is that they cannot produce their own contrary, yet credible, survey to disprove or discredit the Pulse Asia conclusions.
But the clash of opinion need not escalate into a battle of surveys. Pulse Asia and similar outfits can help build confidence in themselves by educating their target publics on the finer points of opinion polling.
It would be interesting to see how the other major survey firm, the Social Weather Stations, would report (soon?) on the standing of President Duterte during the pandemic that continues to infect a rising number of Filipinos, reported at 326,833 the other day.
We have checked the technical notes on the Pulse Asia survey published on their website but found it insufficient in answering lingering questions.
As one with no formal background in opinion surveys, I could consider myself representative of those who are bugged by recurring questions impinging on the credibility of political surveys.
We note that the 1,200 respondents have spoken, in effect, for a diverse field of some 65 million adult Filipinos spread over the National Capital Region, 81 provinces, 146 cities, 1,488 towns, and 42,036 barangays in this archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.
The numbers mean there are towns and barangays with no voice among the 1,200 persons referred to by Pulse Asia as “probability respondents” who are of voting age, 18 years or older. They comprise 60.3 percent of the national population of more than 109,960,000.
The interviewers asked them the question in the local language saying: “I have here the names of government officials (Showing interviewee a list containing the names of President Duterte, Vice President Leni Robredo, Senate President Tito Sotto, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, and Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta). Please tell us what you think of how they have been performing their duties (Showing a board listing various degrees of approval or disapproval) based on what you know, or have read or heard at any time.”
They were taken from the National Capital Region, 300; North and Central Luzon (CAR, Regions 1-3), 145; Southern Luzon (Regions 4A-4B, 5), 155; Visayas (Regions 6-8), 300; and Mindanao (Regions 9-12, Caraga, ARMM), 300.
Pulse Asia said the respondents came from 240 sample barangays distributed among the 17 regions in proportion to their population size. In each sample barangay, five respondents were selected.
In the National Capital Region, 60 barangays were randomly chosen from the 16 cities and one town in such a way that each city/town had a number of barangays proportional to its population. An additional provision was that each locality must have one sample barangay.
Interviews followed. Many people ask how come nobody they know had been interviewed by either Pulse Asia or SWS, and why they have not seen photos of actual interviews being conducted.
We also wonder if there were real interviews, were the respondents asked preliminary questions such as these:
1. Have you or a member of your immediate family been infected by COVID-19?
2. Have you or a member of your household ever received ayuda or pantawid subsidy from the government?
We expect that all the interviewees were not suffering from COVID-19 because if they were, they would be too risky to interview. And if they had not been afflicted, they would be inclined to be kinder to the administration that they perceive to be doing its job.
Those who have received ayuda or pantawid are also likely to give Duterte a high rating. No wonder a pollster once told us that the best time to get favorable responses from interviewees is after they have received government assistance or favor.
Note that Pulse Asia reported that Duterte has the highest favorable rating in the poorer communities or sectors, which happen to be the targets of ayuda distribution. We won’t be surprised if many recipients think the cash or goods are from Duterte.