THE contradictory results of the SWS and Pulse Asia Surveys, done practically at the same time in September, and both claiming scientifically warranted procedures, have raised eyebrows and doubts. In the SWS survey, the President’s net satisfaction and trust ratings have drastically dropped, with the steepest in income classes D and E. On the other hand, the Pulse Asia survey claims that while there is a slight drop in the President’s approval and trust ratings, they are practically at the same level compared to the second quarter numbers, with the highest rating in income class E.
It was as if the two survey companies talked about two entirely different countries.
Supporters of President Duterte have been quick to dismiss the SWS survey as probably rigged.
Indeed, there are enough reasons to doubt the SWS survey. The sharp decline in the D and E crowd, even as the numbers for the ABC income classes remained relatively unchanged, tells you of the existence of a class-specific issue. What is offered as an explanation is that the decline was due to the perception by the poor that they are being targeted by the drug war. It was around the time of the survey that Kian de los Santos died at the hands of the Caloocan police.
The context for this steep decline in the trust and satisfaction ratings of the President was laid down when SWS earlier released the results of their survey on alleged extra-judicial killings. The results showed that majority of the people allegedly believe that those who died in the hands of the police are probably not guilty, and would probably not have resisted arrest. Many also believed that many victims were wrongfully included in the police list.
However, in another SWS survey, majority of the people were satisfied with the war on drugs, and even lauded the President for his anti-crime and anti-drug efforts.
Something just doesn’t add up. Unless there is another plausible explanation, such as the fact that the poor are not satisfied with the President’s economic policies, for which no data exists to back it up, then the SWS survey not only on the war on drugs and EJK, but also on the President’s satisfaction and trust ratings will always be in doubt.
This is why Duterte supporters welcomed the Pulse Asia survey as the one that is more believable. It strengthens the view that the people still trust and still approve of the President’s performance, despite the political opposition’s concerted efforts to demonize him.
Thus, it is easy to interpret the Pulse Asia survey results as a failure of the political opposition.
But are they really failing?
Perhaps, one must be creative enough to entertain the possibility that aside from the President, the political opposition has another target. After all, the massive base of support for the President, if we go by the Pulse Asia survey, is almost impregnable. There is no other way to interpret an 80 percent trust and approval rating after one year of incessant attacks.
It is plausible that the other targets of the political opposition are the influencers who mediate and link the President to his base of support.
This explains why the anonymous army of anti-Duterte social media bloggers have been relentless in attacking pro-Duterte social media, such as Mocha Uson, RJ Nieto aka Thinking Pinoy and Sass Rogando Sasot, as well as other bloggers and social media enablers.
It is also in this context that the contradictory results of the SWS and Pulse Asia surveys become relevant. This is because while most pro-Duterte bloggers subscribe to the Pulse Asia results, the SWS survey has created this atmosphere of dissatisfaction aimed at the President’s own people in his government, particularly Secretary Martin Andanar and the PCOO. A content analysis of the posts of prominent supporters indicates that it is Andanar’s PCOO that is being blamed for their alleged failure to effectively manage the communication operations for the President.
While publicly celebrating Pulse Asia’s affirmation of the President’s almost Teflon-like public image, pro-Duterte social media is now grumbling about the alleged threats to the President’s popularity as painted by SWS. This is further triggered by the President’s outburst at the European Union ambassadors in reaction to the misrepresentation by the Philippine Daily Inquirer of the real nature of the visiting European activists who protested against the war on drugs.
It is actually strange that pro-Duterte supporters would believe that it was mishandled by his communications people, when this is not the first time the President unleashed his bravado not only at diplomats, but even at heads of state.
It is odd because they used to celebrate his bravado, and his cursing, and his up-yours mentality. It is odd because if we believe Pulse Asia, then such outbursts have no effects on the President’s ratings.
What is apparent is that while the base still holds, the mediators are beginning to unravel, and turn on each other, and on the President’s communication people in Malacañang, enough for them to say that the PCOO doesn’t have his back.
Perhaps, one has to consider that this may be the intention of the political opposition. Unable to erode the President in the eyes of his base, they will now turn on his social media army, to divide and conquer. They will plant enough triggers, from gamed surveys to faked news to sow dissension and intrigues. They will also bait and push them to lose trust and confidence in the work of the PCOO, and blame Secretary Andanar and his team for the erosion of the President’s popularity, whether real or gamed.
It will be tragic if the political opposition will succeed in baiting his social media supporters into turning on each other and against the PCOO. It will be even more tragic if such will eventually rub off on the President and lead to the wearing off of his Teflon coating.