Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wala Ko Gapati sa mga Survey-Survey Nga Ina

I sometimes get the feeling that elections are held just so we can find out if the surveys are correct. Just a couple of months ago Noynoy Aquino enjoyed a seemingly insurmountable 10 percentage point lead over his nearest rival Villar (leading me to think that finally this time we will have a majority-elected President). But early this month Pulse Asia came out with a survey showing that Aquino and Villar were in a virtual tie at 37% - 35% respectively which has shaken the morale of Noynoy supporters and revealed the cracks in their campaign headquarters. Now, another survey conducted by TNS (Taylor Nelson Sofres) showed that Noynoy still enjoys a commanding lead at 41% vis-a-vis Villar's 30%. Meanwhile in Iloilo City, opinion surveys conducted by the local poll outfit Random Access show Mayor Trenas enjoying a comfortable lead over Congressman Raul Gonzalez Jr. (for the congressional race) and Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog having a slight lead over Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. (for the mayoral race).

People say that surveys tend to be self-fulfilling but the record shows this is quite not true. Miriam Defensor-Santiago in 1992 was a survey topnotcher but lost to Ramos while Fernando Poe, another survey favourite, lost to Gloria in 2004. Erap was the only consistent survey leader who won. Nevertheless, surveys do have a considerable influence on peoples’ minds, leading in Senator Gordon (a presidentiable consistently lagging behind the surveys), in a fit of pique, to utter “eh di wag na lang tayo mag-eleksyon. Magpa-survey na lang tayo!” Nearer to home, “wala ko gapati sa mga survey survey nga ina,” is a common comment we hear from local candidates who are not faring well in opinion surveys.

I do not have the actual records but I think no one will argue with me if I say that during the past two elections there has been no survey in Iloilo City that showed Congressman Gonzalez Junior in the lead. In 2004 practically all local surveys predicted Malabor to win over him while in 2007 the opinion polls favored either Dan Cartagena or Malabor. And mind you, their "leads" were virtually and statistically insurmountable, some ridiculously running up to 30-plus percentage points! The same is happening today wherein Mayor Trenas and Vice Mayor Mabilog are being bruited about by Random Access as the "men to beat" this 2010 elections. But contrary to survey expectations, Gonzalez Junior has won time and again (by a slim margin in 2004 and with a 45,000-vote majority margin during the last 2007 elections). So how could have Random Access missed this?

One possible explanation is their methodology. Most if not all survey outfits usually use the one-on-one interview method: surveyors (usually pretty college undergrads) go to your home to ask you a list of questions and take down your answers. This method does not capture the true essence of elections. On election day, no one from Comelec will go to your house, give you your ballot, take your vote and bring your ballot to the precinct so that it can be counted. On election day you have to wake up early, shower and dress up, walk or motor to the public school where your precinct is located, and once you've found your precinct, line up under the intense heat of the summer sun in order to cast your vote. Thinking is very different from acting - saying that you like someone is a far cry from actually voting for that person because it involves more effort. Hence, to gauge the "absolute truth" survey firms should revise and devise their methodology that actually simulate actual election day conditions.

What probably really happened in Iloilo City back in 2007 and 2004 was that most of the people who said they will vote for Malabor or Cartagena decided that it is not worth their while to go out and just decided to stay at home. It is that or the survey firms were simply paid by politicians to tweak their results.

This is why so-called opinion surveys are no longer taken seriously by the people of Iloilo. Not that they do not believe in surveys per se, but it is because previous elections have proven firms like Random Access to be wrong. People have become wary of surveys and see it as another mind-conditioning tool used by politicians to further their candidacies.

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