I am bewitched, bothered and bewildered by the results of two trust surveys conducted this year that sought to measure the level of public trust in the government and our top officials.
One is the Ulat ng Bayan survey conducted by Pulse Asia in November this year, which has been the subject of incessant spinning by the media and public relations specialists.
The other is the Philippine Trust Index conducted annually by EON Stakeholder Relations in cooperation with the Ateneo Graduate School of business, which was conducted earlier this year and whose results were released last October 27.
My head is spinning because, while surveying clearly the same community (our people), the two polls returned markedly contrasting results on virtually the same survey subjects.
Can both surveys be accurate in reflecting the trust landscape in our society, without canceling each other out? Or are they both hopelessly mired in the interests and agendas of their respective organizations and clients?
Pulse Asia survey
The Pulse Asia survey, aka Ulat ng Bayan, sought to measure the approval and trust ratings of President Aquino, Vice-President Binay and other top officials, not the institutions or offices that they lead.
Pulse Asia reported that President Aquino polled 56% trust ratings and 59% approval ratings in November. The numbers were so good that some Palace hacks enthused that PNoy is almost back to his heady ratings in 2010 when he was newly installed in the Presidency.
Additionally, Pulse Asia reported that Vice-President Jejomar Binay had registered his lowest-ever approval and trust ratings with Pulse Asia.
From an 87% approval rating and 86% trust rating in March this year, Binay polled an approval rating of 45% and a trust rating of 44% last month.
Sensing that his survey findings might be too much for a skeptical public, Pulse Asia president Ronald Holmes tried to tamp down the numbers a little bit. He suggested that Aquino’s ratings haven’t rebounded from their level in June when the Supreme Court declared that key parts of his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) unconstitutional.
The survey was conducted between November 14 and 20, with 1,200 respondents polled nationwide.
Pulse Asia’s survey also doubled as a preference survey on individuals rumored to be interested in running for president. I shall tackle this in a separate column on presidential preference polling, which will run next week.
Philippine Trust Index
The other survey is the Philippine Trust Index conducted earlier this year by EON Stakeholder Relations in cooperation with the Ateneo Graduate School of Business, and announced at a public presentation last October 27.
It was the subject of an earlier Observer column (“A government Filipinos do not trust”, Times, Nov. 4, 2014).
The trust index survey sought to measure the level of Filipino public trust in their institutions (church, academe, government, media, business and non-government organizations).
The third in a series conducted by EON in three years, the survey was undertaken from May to June this year. It covered 1,626 respondents. Face-to-face interviews with respondents from urban and rural areas in NCR, North Luzon, South Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao were conducted.
Respondents in the survey are members of the population who are identified as the “informed public” – adult Filipinos between 25 to 65 years old, who have completed at least three years of tertiary education — and “the general public.”
The surevy returned highly revealing results on how Filipinos regard their key social institutions, as follows:
Few were surprised by the findings that the Church (comprising all religious groups) remains the most trusted institution among the general public at 75% rating, and that the least trusted is the Government, with a trust level of 11%.
Taking together the three PTIs from 2011 to 2014, the government has seen diminishing trust ratings from 2011 to 2014. This year, The Office of the President contested with the Senate the dubious title of least trusted government institution.
Some nagging questions
These survey findings raise some nagging questions.
If government is the least trusted institution by the Filipino public this year, and with the office of the president running nose-to-nose with the Senate for low honors according to the trust index, how can President Aquino record in the same year such high approval and trust ratings in the Pulse Asia survey? Did the two survey firms conduct their research in different countries and in different years?
Since EON was partnereed by a reputable graduate school of business in the design and conduct of its survey, do these bonafides attest to the trustworthiness of its survey findings?
Since Pulse Asia, since time immemorial, has always been financed by the fees paid by politicians and cliens seeking favorable ratings in its surveys, does this fact tilt the survey questionnaires and findings against the public interest?
Given the long-rumored fact that relatives of President Aquino are part owners and officers of the Pulse Asia organization, was its November survey specifically designed to reverse the deflating results of the Philippine Trust Index?
Given the unusual number of questions concerning Vice President Binay, was the November survey specifically designed to harvest the fruits of the Senate inquisition into Binay’s alleged hidden wealth?
I put it to the public and to my colleagues in the media, that there is now also a need for a trust survey on Pulse Asia. If the public will affirm its faith and trust in the polling firm and its surveys, I shall willingly submit to its trust nostrums.