Those 'instant survey firms' are resurrecting!
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-06-14

We should be wearily accustomed by now of those “instant survey firms” that have the tendency to sprout every time we have a presidential election. These “instant survey firms” suddenly emerge and just as quickly vanish after a presidential election — quite unlike the reliable SWS and Pulse Asia survey firms that have long been delivering accurate and credible surveys.

Last Monday, we were suddenly introduced to a new survey firm that presented a set of findings on the 2010 presidential race — a portion of which radically deviated from the recently conducted SWS and Pulse Asia surveys. This is a firm that calls itself The Center, a shortened name for Issues and Advocacy Center.

On their website, they claimed: “Our mission at the Issues and Advocacy Center (The CENTER) is to create winning formulas that drive our political media campaigns to achieve the desired results and which are rooted on the highest moral and ethical standards in the pursuit of accurate, truthful and persuasive publicity campaigns.

“The Issues and Advocacy Center (The CENTER) is a political media campaign consultancy group that is based in the Philippines and which is a springboard of trend-setting ideas in politics and advocacy. We employ these ideas to provide maximum value to our clients and this is what defines us from the rest.

“The people behind The CENTER are driven by their passion to create and implement the strategies that are needed to win an election and or succeed in the pursuit of an advocacy issue. At The CENTER, we recognize the value of effective research and strategic communications and we are equipped with the expertise and the competence necessary to achieve our targets.”

Does that not suggest to you that their firm services candidates, providing winning election campaign strategies, more than it is engaged in providing important information to the general public?

Long-time Public Relations (PR) practitioner, Ed M. Malay, is listed as the Founding Director of The Center. My friend Ed has recently figured in a controversy for announcing that former president Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) was planning to meet with former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada to explore a political alliance. An irritated FVR denied that announcement — even stating that Malay was not his spokesman but merely a media coordinator.

In the order of battle of The Center are Art Valenzuela (Managing Director/Data Advisors, Inc. and, The CENTER Consultant for Communications Research) and Alfred Soreta (President/ Proberz Consultancy Inc. and, The CENTER Consultant for Political Analysis, Research and Reporting).

Now this gets curiouser and curiouser. Was it not an Art Valenzuela who also headed the survey firm that operated during the 1998 presidential election which was the ONLY survey firm that had the gall and the temerity to predict in its final report that Speaker Jose de Venecia — and not winner Joseph Estrada — was going to be the 1998 president?

In its Pulso ng Pilipino (Filipino Pulse) release last Monday, The Center announced that presidential wannabes Joseph Estrada and Mar Roxas were leading the race in a listed field of 13 presidential aspirants. Erap and Mar Roxas were tied at 15 percent apiece, Manny Villar came in third with 14 percent and Chiz Escudero and Noli de Castro were fourth and fifth, respectively, with 13 percent each.

This marks a radical deviation from SWS and Pulse Asia poll results which never placed Mar Roxas in the top three of the presidential race. In the May 4 -17 Pulse Asia survey, Mar was seen making a dramatic improvement in ratings but most polls placed Mar outside of the top three slots.

Expanding the presidential field to an unrealistic number of 13 candidates (more will likely follow Senator Panfilo Lacson’s withdrawal) should make it more improbable for Mar to top the field. When a product category expands with more brands competing, the weaker brands are more vulnerable to losing market share. Per his ratings, Mar is considered the weaker brand while Noli de Castro, Manny Villar and Chiz Escudero are considered the dominant brands for consistently topping the past polls.

We are not saying here that the The Center presented a survey that was intended to create a winning momentum for a particular candidate. But the sudden deviation from SWS and Pulse Asia results would certainly revive memories of that survey that projected Joe de Venecia as the winner of the 1998 presidential election.

We are not saying here that the survey of The Center was incompetently or maliciously prepared. What we are saying here is that we have good reasons to question its results because of the trust we have developed for the SWS and Pulse Asia for all the years they’ve provided us with reliable data. Any sudden deviation from the SWS and Pulse Asia results will certainly provoke doubts.

Some folks raise the issue that surveys tend to condition voters to select the top rating candidates. They further posit that surveys should be banned so that those who are not showing well in the surveys will have better chances to be considered.

That, of course, is a loser’s mentality. It is like saying that Formula 1 racing ought to be scrapped so that Filipinos who cannot afford those Formula 1 Ferraris can enter the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo with their stock Toyota or Nissan. It’s like proposing that we remove food from all sales outlets because some people tend to become obese.

If some of our voters are easily influenced by survey results in choosing whom they’ll vote for, the solution to that would be voter education and not the scrapping of surveys. If lame brained voters do not have surveys to guide them whom to vote for, what will stop the same lame brained voters from choosing the candidate with the most winsome smile or is married to the best looking spouse?

Scrap the SWS and Pulse Asia surveys and what will prove, for example, that Gilbert Teodoro (who never landed in the top 4 in surveys) did not lose to Noli de Castro, Manny Villar and Chiz Escudero (current consistent leaders in surveys). Scrap the SWS and Pulse Asia surveys and what else do we go by if it so happens internal computer hacking altered the results of the 2010 presidential elections.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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