The SWS’ November pre-election survey requires well-deserved scrutiny not because it proclaims the foul-mouthed Rodrigo Duterte as topping the voter preference poll for the first time. Or because the ethically challenged Social Weather Stations (SWS) conducted the poll.
What is striking is that, unlike its previous feeling of the public pulse, this time the usually secretive SWS disclosed details about its survey – the methodology, the sample, the questionnaire, and the one who commissioned the poll.
(This stands in marked contrast to the policy of Pulse Asia, which guards its methods like a Sicilian Mafioso, who has sworn an oath of omerta.)
Yet for all the effort at disclosure and honesty, the SWS survey on balance reeks of deceit and manipulation. It confirms the survey firm’s dubious record of placing its polling totally at the service of clients who are willing to pay.
The distaste, skepticism and brouhaha that have greeted the survey are entirely deserved.
The question is the key
The survey findings simply stated were as follows.
To the question whom ( who?) they would vote for if the elections were held today, 1200 registered voters across the country replied in these proportions of preference:
Rody Duterte, 38 percent
Jojo Binay, 21 percent
Grace Poe, 21 percent
Mar Roxas, 15percent
Miriam Santiago, 4percent
The survey consisted of a sampling of 1,200 respondents randomly selected nationwide and who all claimed to be registered voters.
In the resulting brouhaha over the survey findings, SWS disclosed details about the questionnaire and the identity of the man who commissioned the survey.
The survey was commissionedby a certain William J. Lima, a Davao-based businessman, who is evidently a Duterte supporter.
The survey questionnaire consisted of two question lists. The question that produced the big result for Duterte was list 2, which was thrust at respondents after list 1 was answered. List 2 posed the following question as explained by my colleague Bobi Tiglao in his column yesterday: “With Rodrigo Duterte on this list as a substitute candidate for President, who would you most likely vote for President if the elections were held today?”
List 1 had merely enumerated the known candidates. List 2 highlighted Duterte’s inclusion in the field of choices.
If a comparison is made between respondents’ responses to list 1 and list 2, the results will no doubt show that List 1 did not produce the same astounding results for Duterte as list 2. In all probability, his ratings were the same as in previous surveys, in the low tens.
Significantly, SWS director of survey data library Leo Laroza said the questions were constructed with the help of Lima and were probably supplied by Lima. Constructed and supplied make it sound like a public works project.
The admission confirms what many of us have long suspected: that the commissioned surveys of the SWS are designed to produce results that those who paid for them want to see.
The questions are invariably leading, crafted to produce a desired response.
When an opinion poll is conducted in this way, it is invalid and is not reflective of the true state of public opinion.
Laroza explained that Lima was not involved in the conduct of the survey, but with the question in list 2 formulated in favor of Duterte, the results had nowhere else to go.
The decision to commission the survey was made at a time when Duterte was still hedging about his candidacy, one day plunging in, another day chickening out.
The survey was commissioned to persuade Duterte to fully commit himself to running. A survey showing him in the lead would be the tipping point.
Duterte’s claim that he was impelled to run because of the decision of the Senate Election Tribunal (SET) to dismiss the Grace Poe disqualification case, was only propaganda to give his decision to run a halo.
The operation was scripted all the way.
Unscripted acceptance speech
What was not scripted, however, was Duterte’s weird acceptance speech of his nomination by the PDP –Laban political party. None of the strategists and financial backers knew or anticipated what a foul mouth he had, and the size of his ego.
The torrent of curses and obscenities, the boasting about his women, and the bragging over the people he had executed were beyond scripting.
The public reaction was electric and overwhelmingly negative. Overnight, media turned against Duterte.
The nation was treated to a rare sight: a contrite and apologetic Duterte.
Talk of a Duterte withdrawal resurfaced. He himself declared that he would quit the race if the bishops (the Pope?) would ask him to withdraw.
But there will be no withdrawal. His financial backers and supporters will drag him into the campaign if they must. They will turn him into a well-behaved little boy if they must. And they will keep money flowing to SWS and Pulse Asia so they will dutifully produce polls that will buttress the image of an electable candidate and a potentially winning campaign.
Who is this man?
But what of the candidate himself? What does he believe in? What does he stand for?
The questions of the public about Rody Duterte have become existential? People want to know who is this man who seeks to become the next president of our republic. Does he really believe in all that boasting about dumping criminals and drug addicts in Manila Bay and spurring a boom in the funeral business and undertaker’s trade?
Duterte’s tirade of expletives will doubtless take its toll on the painstakingly-produced results of the SWS survey.
Duterte is a strange candidate in that he has himself produced the negative advertising against him that rivals can tap. All their campaigns have to do now is play and replay his putangina masterwork during the campaign.
The people will decide whether Duterte is the mouth they want to represent them and their country.