I AM not a fan of surveys, specifically pre-election voter preference surveys. I believe these should not be allowed for publication because it defeats the purpose of leveling the playing field for candidates.
I am aware that the Supreme Court, in 2001, declared unconstitutional the banning of the publication of election survey results, even for a limited time, for being an infringement on the freedom of speech, expression and of the press.
I have no issue with conducting pre-election surveys, but it is in making the results public that I take the opposite view because it serves to condition the mind of voters. Some results are even biased or deliberately manipulated to favor a candidate. Somehow, the public’s right to be informed Is abused.
Political parties and candidates can commission surveys as they want, but they should keep the results to themselves for their own purposes like reviewing their campaign strategies in places where they appear weak in the survey.
A significant number of Filipino voters are swayed by the bandwagon effect. We tend to support a candidate who is likely to win. We don’t want to be associated with losers.
Just a few days ago, a friend said he was voting for Grace Poe because he did not want Jejomar Binay to become President. He said he thinks Mar Roxas is the best candidate but his survey ratings have been too low and at it now seems impossible for him to catch up despite the apparent use of the government resources to prop up his popularity.
This situation becomes more obvious in times like today, when the choices are difficult not because they are all good, but because no near-perfect candidate is available.
Political spins to promote a certain candidate and destroy rivals make the choice even more difficult.
It is sad enough that elections have become popularity contests, instead of considering what would best serve the public interests.
Those who have somehow established connection with, or are themselves involved in the entertainment industry, have the edge over candidates whose background and experience are in less popular fields like business, education, or civil society.
Take a look at how the senatorial race is almost always dominated by candidates who are/were showbiz personalities, even if they have no background at all in legislation. Others have won because they bore surnames that have made their mark in politics.
That explains the reason for “serious” candidates to reach out to personalities in the entertainment world to secure their endorsement. This strategy has worked for many candidates, but failed for some.
The lack of transparency in how surveys are done and measured adds to my suspicions about the legitimacy of these opinion polls. Besides, I don’t think 1,200 to 2,500 respondents can represent 57 million voters.
Election outcomes match survey results only because pollsters succeed in conditioning the minds or manipulating voters about the candidates’ winnability.
However, with an uncontrolled press, particularly the social media, it seems impossible to keep survey results within the confines of political parties or candidates. Those who would benefit from good results would always find a way to leak them for publication, or feed false or self-serving information to social media networks or political blogs to put them in the race to the top.
I find it annoying that political parties have the tendency to field candidates who are popular and perceived to be more winnable than those with a track record and more sincere in their intention to serve the public good.
Instead of explaining issues to the public, candidates engage in mudslinging, just so they would be talked about and make people aware of their existence, in the hope of getting more points in the next survey period.
Candidates worry most about their survey ratings than keeping track of what they can deliver once they win, against the promises they made, to be popular.
Publication of pre-election survey results puts the lesser-known candidates at a greater disadvantage because of the tendency of voters to either just stay home if their candidate is not going to win, anyway, or join the bandwagon of another candidate which has been enjoying high ratings.
In the 2001 Supreme Court decision on the joint petition of the pollster, Social Weather Stations (SWS), and the Manila Standard newspaper to strike off Sec. 5.4 of Republic Act No. 9006, or the Fair Election Practices Act, Associate Justice Jose Melo noted that “the provision in dispute does not prohibit paid hacks from trumpeting the qualifications of their candidates.”
Because of this, he said: “… while survey organizations who employ scientific methods and engage personnel trained in the social sciences to determine socio-political trends are barred from publishing their results within the specified periods, any two-bit scribbler masquerading as a legitimate journalist can write about the purported strong showing of his candidate without any prohibition or restraint.”
At the end of the day, the fate of politicians, shrewd or stupid, is still in the hands of voters. Responsible voting is not a simple exercise of writing down names or shading circles. The difficult part is the process of separating the wheat from the chaff.
At this stage when the 90-day official campaign period has barely kicked off, we have to be more discerning in scrutinizing what they say and do, what they have done and how they are capable of delivering what they promise. It is not enough that one is popular and promising.