False polls: Uncle’s survey boosts Poe’s ratings

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I’m not sure Senator Grace Poe had anything to do with it, principled as she seems to be.

But the recent “best-leaders” poll by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) headed by her uncle, Mahar Kelley Mangahas, who is the first cousin of her dad, the late Fernando Kelly Poe Jr., appears to me as another one of the many SWS episodes that depict a “trend” showing a political figure becoming a formidable candidate for the presidency.

SWS on April 15 released results of its latest survey done about a month ago, which asked respondents who they thought were “the best leaders (“magagaling”) to succeed President Aquino” after the end of his term in 2016.

Very cunningly, the SWS didn’t ask who they would vote for as president. Any social scientist would tell you that opinion polls are mostly accurate and useful in voter-preference surveying as the respondent is asked to report an intention, a future action, rather than a whim or a passing thought.


However, to pretend that its poll was one that asked its respondent about their voting preference for the president, SWS prefaced its question with the following statement: “According to the Constitution, the term of Pres. Noynoy Aquino is up to 2016 only, and there will be an election for a new President in May 2016.”

But the SWS poll is patently not a voter-preference survey in which a respondent chooses only one candidate. This emulates the actual election in which a voter choosing more than one candidate automatically invalidates his ballot.

In contrast, in the SWS “best-leaders” poll, a respondent is allowed to pick three “best leaders” to succeed Aquino. “Maari po kayong magbanggit ng hanggang tatlong sagot, [You may mention up to three names]” according to the survey questionnaire.

It’s a clever trick for exaggerating a candidate’s chances in a presidential contest: A poll for fools.

Polls or propaganda tools?: SWS “best-leaders” surveys, recent and past

Polls or propaganda tools?: SWS “best-leaders” surveys, recent and past

While it is not a voter-preference survey, as if on cue, the Philippine Daily Inquirer — and most media outlets — reported it as such a poll for the presidency, and had it as its banner story: “Poe cuts down Binay lead,” with its lead paragraph reading: “As she closed in on Vice President Jejomar Binay as the voter’s choice for the next President of the Philippines, Sen. Grace Poe said she was inspired by the people’s approval of their work.” Obviously, this was SWS’s intention for its “best-leaders” survey, to fool the media.

However, since the SWS poll wasn’t a voter-preference poll, which would require only one choice from the respondents, it can’t be used to compare the percentage of those who preferred Binay against those who preferred Poe, simply because a respondent was asked to give three choices as the “best leader to succeed Aquino.”

This is because a respondent in that kind of SWS poll could choose both Binay and Poe, and even a third choice as his choice as among the best successors of Aquino.

To illustrate this, if you ask tech-savvy respondents to name the three best computer operating systems, the percentages would probably be 40 percent Windows and 40 percent Mac OS X and 10 percent others. But if you ask them what operating system they will buy, the results (according to a Philippine poll) would be 92 percent Windows and only 4 percent OS X.

Mamasapano hearings
Cleverly in the case of the SWS “best-leaders” poll, the survey was undertaken at the height of the Mamasapano hearings, which Poe chaired to consequently boost her name-recall so more people remembered to put her in their list. So, Poe was named in the recent SWS poll by 31 percent of the respondents, up from 21 percent in December. Does that mean, she is, as two broadsheets reported the poll, “closing in on Binay?”

Certainly not. Because some of the 31 percent of respondents who put Poe among the “best-leaders” list had at the same time also picked Binay – or Mar Roxas, or Rodolfo Duterte or a third leader.

How many? We can’t say from the polls’ design. None or even all of Poe’s 31 percent theoretically also picked Binay. The only way to find out is to undertake an honest-to-goodness voter-preference survey, not the hogwash of a poll the SWS did, with the question: “Who will you vote for President, and you may, as the actual balloting will require, pick only one. “

I’d like to give Mr. Mangahas the benefit of the doubt that he is just doing his pollsters job. But I find it difficult to do so when a few days after he released the SWS’s garbage “best-successors” poll, Mangahas disclosed the results of an authentic voter-preference poll, but only for the vice-presidency.

The SWS says the two polls were both undertaken on March 20-23. Most likely, both were undertaken in the same “run,” that is, the two questions were asked by the same pollster in one interview of the same person.

So why didn’t SWS undertake a presidential voter-preference survey (“Who would you vote for as President in 2016,” but instead, only a vice-presidential one, and a best-leaders poll?

The answer is so obvious. Poe would get a high rating, such as 31 percent in the “best-leaders” poll, especially after the Mamasapano hearings, which would, anyway, be interpreted by the gullible media as a presidential poll. And with an authentic voter-preference poll for the vice-presidency released right after, media — and the people – will think that the “best-leaders” poll had the same reliable design as the vice-presidential poll.

In a real presidential-preference poll, in which a respondent would have to pick Poe to the exclusion of Binay, Mar and other candidates, she’d get much less than that.

One indication of this is that in the last (March 1-7) presidential-preference poll undertaken by Pulse Asia on who respondents would vote for as president, Binay got 29 percent while Poe received 14 percent. In a two- or three-cornered fight, I would bet – from past elections and polls – Poe would get much lower ratings.

So wrong
Except for the top-rated choice, SWS’ “best-leaders” polls have been so wrong in predicting the outcome of presidential elections. In the last SWS “best-leaders” poll before the May 2010 elections, Aquino obtained a 59 percent rating, 17 percentage points higher than the actual 42 percent he got in the elections. The runner-up, though, Joseph Estrada, who got 26 percent of the votes, was ranked only fourth in the “best-leaders” poll, with 18 percent.

So clever is Mangahas’ best-leaders poll, don’t you think? And so useful, as contributors use such polls to hedge their bets at this early stage. I suspect the SWS polls have opened the spigot of campaign financing a bit for Poe from the more gullible financiers.

Pollsters in other nations have been ethical not to employ such a “trending” device. I have yet to find a pollster anywhere in the world — and even here — who does what Mangahas has been doing with his “best-leaders” false polls.

In fact, if you’re one among probably millions of Filipinos now regretting why on earth they voted for Aquino in 2010, you can put part of the blame on the SWS “best-leaders” poll.

Hardly had the mourning period for Corazon Aquino, who died Aug 1, 2009, ended, when the SWS used its “best-leaders” tool to portray Aquino as the next president.

Its “best-leaders’ poll undertaken Sept 18-20 that year reported that 60 percent of Filipinos picked Aquino as Arroyo’s successor from nearly nothing (0.4 percent) before his mother died. It was a rating that suddenly deflated the front-runner Manuel Villar’s standing and likely created a bandwagon effect. That, of course, had donations suddenly flowing to Aquino, helping create a “trending” to elect somebody who would be the most incompetent Philippine president ever.

SWS’s earlier king- (and queen-) maker attempts, however, have not always been successful:

Loren Legarda got a high 44 percent in the SWS September 2007 “best-leaders” poll. Her ratings in that poll would fall to 3 percent by November 2009 and lower to 1 percent in the latest. Is Poe the new, improved Loren?

Noli de Castro got 35 percent in March 2008 (higher than Poe’s latest 31 percent). His ratings fell to 3 percent by November 2009.

Francis Escudero ratings had seemed to be on the way up, rising from 13 percent in 2007 to 23 percent by February 2009. It’s at 8 percent in the latest “best-leaders” poll.

This SWS kind of polls bolsters my view, which I have explained in past several columns, that in this country, opinion polls have been degraded into a political weapon and a propaganda tool. Only a few backward countries, in fact, report voter-preference polls on the front pages. Here it is routinely done and even brandished with screaming banner headlines.

The politicking season in our country is a time when pollsters make their millions, but we have to be critical of those since they could subvert democracy. What is a scientific tool in civilized countries has been debased in our country as a tool for propagating an irrational name-recall system for determining who would lead the nation next.

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27 Comments

  1. vicky alonzo on

    Ang resulta ng election 2016 ang magsasabi kung sino ang nararapat na umupo bilang bagong presidente ng bansa. And for sure VP Binay will win because he has the guts to change the wrong system they made

  2. vicky alonzo on

    Ang resulta ng election 2016 ang magsasabi kung sino ang nararapat na umupo bilang bagong presidente ng bansa wlang magagwa yang survey na yan

    REPLY: Ang resulta ng 2016 elections ay magiging utos ng Smartmatic/PCOS machines.

  3. Jasper Eusebio on

    Kht anong survey pa gawin nila sa bandang huli ang result pa din is si VP Binay ang nasa top 1. okay? :)

  4. Jaymie Salazar on

    Kaya namn pala humabol e. but wala pa din silang magagawa VP Binay is stil on the top kht anong gawin nila.

  5. Let your mind speak not so much your heart when it comes to select among list presented.After all, even without that survey and conditioning we all have avenues to make all things bright.

  6. sws and Pulse Asia surveys can be manipulated depending on the questionair being ask and who is paying for it. The most recent one is done for trending to make it appear the Binay is going down. A sampling of 1200 respondent is not really accurate but because media announcement some people are believing it is the nation trend. Mind conditioning of our people is one the root causes of cheating in our election system. It is about time it should be restricted because it favors the cheaters.

  7. Good suggestion by Sonny. Philstar has one.

    Most likely the Liberal Party will employ again their Hocus PCOS machine.

    Ms Poe is one of the “galamay’ or ‘horses” of the Conjuanco-Aquino Clan. To insure that they will be in power for years to come they field many horses. Chiz Escudero, Drilon, Poe etc etc….

    There is no ther choice, the Filipinos should elect Mayor Duterte – he is the only one among the Presidentiables who has the following:

    a) Experience and proven capability
    b) Loves the country more than family or clan.
    c) Handles issues with a Smart sense

    He will Unite our Country and move it forward.
    No stupid empty sloganeering like BSaquino, but
    practical, down to earth, real solutions to our country’s myriad problems.

  8. Maraming salamat, Mr. Tiglao kitang-kita dito ang KAPANGAHASAN ni Mahar MANGAHAS that mislead us voters.

  9. The computer choice example you cited, very clearly presents to a simple mind like mine how duplicituous the survey of SWS was. Shouldn’t there be a law against this?

  10. though i do agree that polls are made to alter the perception of the voting populace, its a bit unfair to put all the flack on mme. Poe. the good senator has been doing her job quite well, despite being a neophyte, and is obviously one of the better choices in the roster. though lacking in years, she has the heart and mind to make up for it.

    • Poe is not being blamed. It is his uncle using the resources of SWS to present Poe as a viable candidate.

  11. Yes the SWS asking for three people to be named who are good managers cannot be compared to any voter preference poll. The only thing that can be deduced from this poll results are anyone not in the top three has no chance. But that is also not a sound mathematical indicator. We need to continue to expose what is being asked in the surveys. We need to determine if the questions can should some relevance. This latest SWS survey has no meaning.

    • Hahhaa!

      Ika nga “the Devil is in the details”
      This is even more true for polls since the questions can be designed to influence the respondents.

      Napaka deceptive naman nila, ano?

  12. Roldan Guerrero on

    With due respect to Sen. POE, I have seen her truthfulness to serve her constituents. If there are Senators who are doing their jobs well, she is one among them. However as a neophyte Senator, she is never qualified to do the job of a president. We must be having again another STUPID PRESIDENT, who will be doing so many mistakes again just like the incumbent who even by the record has been a lawmaker, with 0 accomplishment, 9 yrs. as congressman and 3 yrs. as a senator. The presidency is not a joke. Aquino should serve as the bad example that proves being a leader must be somebody who is really competent and qualified.

    • This is not a rap against her but against the dark forces trying to influence public opinion/trend/perception.

      After creating their illusion, people’s perception will be compromised, then they can use the HCosPCos to bring home the bacon.

  13. Samuel Santos on

    BTW, who’s the “father” of Grace? Baka yung word na UNCLE dapat enclosed rin in quotation marks.

  14. Regardless of the survey, Senator Grace Poe is fresh, courageuos and I think incorruptable. We have our challenges as a nation and one of them is corruption.
    Yes , I believe Mr. Tiglao but for now we don’t need to elect a corrupt percieved
    politician. Even without this survey I think she will have no problem on her electability.
    After reading on her statement wih regard to the BBL I think we have a Congresswoman who is courageous and patriotic…and if Mr Tiglao can focus his
    lenses on Congreswoman Cojuangco of Pangasinan to be paired to Senator Grace Poe as a candidate, I think it will change things around..

  15. Not only did Filipinos elected the most incompetent president Philippines ever had, but also the greatest enabler of corruption. PNoy’s supporters claim that he did not steal from the government, but he’s letting all his KKKs free reign in stealing. Alcala’s DA was found by CoA to have misappropriated P14+ billions and this administration and subservient Congress shows no urgency in investigating. The money stolen under PGMA’s administration seems pocket change compared to PNoy’s administration.

    I hope Filipinos will show more anger towards these trending/misleading surveys so that Filipino voters will not be discourage to vote for more deserving candidate…I often hear people have a preference but when they see these false surveys giving big lead to their (SWS/Pulse Asia) favored candidate, they will just say it’s a waste of time to go and vote. Major media outlets (air, internet, & printed) should also do public service and give candidates, who are short of money, the medium to present their platforms and thereby better educate voters.

  16. sonny dela cruz on

    Mr. Tiglao, in order for the SWS and other paid survey companies to stop fooling around with the Filipino voters, it is time for THE MANILA TIMES to set aside a corner of the paper for voters survey, their preference to be the next president and vice president of the Philippines and if senators can also be included in your survey. including their preference affiliated political parties, let’s do it. As long as your survey will be transparent, we will know who are the survey companies that are lying.

    • Excellent suggestion, but it would be hard to screen out people who are paid hacks to jack up the tally for a candidate. Filtering by internet protocol (IP) address may not be enough to protect the integrity of the survey.

    • sonny dela cruz on

      Let MANILA TIMES think of a better way a survey that will be transparent and acceptable to everyone to follow. I believe 10 Candidates with moral and intellegence to be listed in the survey. Ex. RICHARD GORDON
      MIRIAM D. SANTIAGO
      ALAN CAYETANO
      ETC., mahirap kumuha ng sampu pwedeng pagkatiwalaan. Bahala na ang Manila Times diyan.