How to make poll losers look like winners
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-12-20

Confusion and bewilderment followed news reports and commentaries on various media that dominant 2010 presidential candidate, Senator Noynoy Aquino, had slid dramatically in recent surveys.

Is this true, folks wanted to know, that Noynoy had truly lost a lot of ground as some broadcast commentators and tabloid writers had claimed? Is it true that Senator Manny Villar, who has been consistently placing second to Noynoy, albeit a poor second, had finally caught up with Noynoy Aquino?

Many wondered how Noynoy could be overtaken by Villar when there has been nothing dramatic that took place between them to cause such a change in the political landscape. Noynoy, they rightly observed, had not committed a single catastrophic blunder to make him lose a lot of ground. Villar, on the other hand, had not done anything spectacular to make him rise dramatically and erode Noynoy’s position.

Considering the intensity and passion going for Noynoy, it is illogical that the people supporting him will suddenly shift to another presidential candidate for no compelling reason at all. In fact, there is every reason to believe that Noynoy will improve his ratings and lead with the withdrawal of Senator Chiz Escudero from the race. The bulk of Escudero’s supporters are the youth and they will likely gravitate to Noynoy considering that they favor an Opposition presidential candidate who also reflects hope that youth needs and aspirations will be fulfilled.

The incredulity increases when you factor that Noynoy had performed very well in the December 2, 2009 ANC “Harapan” Presidential Debate which was held at the University of Santo Tomas Auditorium. The ANC panel composed of veteran communications pro Emily Abrera, Pulse Asia president Dr. Ronald Holmes, ABS-CBN website editor-in-chief Maritess Vitug and PPCRV legal counsel Atty. Howard Calleja and moderated by Ricky Carandang felt that Noynoy was among the top three debaters of that forum. An online ANC poll rated Noynoy as the most believed with Gilbert Teodoro, the supposed “competent and talented” presidential candidate, as his ads project him, coming in second.

Up to the second week of December, there was no questioning if Noynoy was maintaining his domination of the presidential race. An SWS nationwide “Single Choice” survey (conducted November 4 to 8 with a base of 1,200 respondents) commissioned by Mayor Edward Hagedorn showed Noynoy rating 47% followed by Villar with 20%, Escudero and Joseph Estrada in 3rd and 4th place with 12% each and Gilbert Teodoro with 3%.

The confusion happened when the other part of the same SWS survey commissioned by Mayor Hagedorn was released last Monday — a multiple choice survey where as many as three could be named. It showed Noynoy rating 59%, Villar with 45%, Escudero with 27%, Estrada with 18% and Teodoro with 8%. The spin masters went to town announcing that Villar had caught up with Noynoy’s big numbers — conveniently omitting to clarify the difference between the “Multiple Choice” and the “Single Choice” surveys.

For the uninitiated, the multiple choice survey is useful in showing if a candidate is not what is called OUT OF SIGHT and OUT OF MIND. For Villar, the multiple choice results are encouraging in that he is not out of sight and out of mind. There are 45% who still think of him as a possible choice for president.

But the single choice survey is the real deal. The single choice survey is what separates the sold from the unsold. In the Single Choice SWS survey, Noynoy’s 47% rating gave him a 27% lead over Villar which was bigger than Villar’s 20% rating.

Then, another one of these instant survey firms that sprout during elections once again resurfaced and produced poll results that are glaringly different from the results of the credible SWS and Pulse Asia surveys. The Center (Issues and Advocacy Center) of PR man Ed Malay (who works for Fidel V. Ramos who in turn has been praising Gilbert Teodoro lately) also released their nationwide survey with a claimed base of 1,200 respondents.

The Center posed this question to their respondents: “Who would you vote for from among the list of nine presidential aspirants (Noynoy Aquino, Manny Villar, Erap Estrada, Gibo Teodoro, Dick Gordon, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, JC de los Reyes, Jamby Madrigal and Nicky Perlas) if elections were to be held today?” It was obviously a single choice survey which claimed to have been conducted from December 2 to 6.

Lo and behold, in The Center survey Noynoy was doing what Malay called a “stationary dive” of 31%. Villar was described as reducing Noynoy’s lead to only 7% with a rating of 24%. If one follows the drift of Malay, the big winner in The Center survey was — don’t hold your breath — Gilbert Teodoro who suddenly climbed to double digit with a rating of 10%. Teodoro was doing 3% in the SWS November 4 - 8 Single Choice survey.

That survey of The Center appeared to have been designed to bring down Noynoy’s ratings and reflect a big jump in the ratings of Gilbert Teodoro. To explain his radically different survey results, Malay said a mouthful in the December 14 STAR story.

Malay claimed that:

1.Teodoro rose because of his supposed “positive reviews from the debates” and his “handling of the Maguindanao massacre even if he was no longer Defense Secretary.”

2. In the wake of the Maguindanao massacre, Filipinos “have begun to look not only at the qualifications of the presidential aspirants but also at the experience and capability of each to lead the country in 2010 and beyond.”

Contrary to what the ANC panel and online poll respondents concluded, Malay was quoted by the STAR as saying that: “The debates were most harmful to Noynoy.” He added: “(They) exposed the weakness and lack of depth on the basic issues by the neophyte senator when ranged against a more knowledgeable and experienced candidate such as Teodoro who topped the 1989 bar exams.”

Really, Malay’s assertions look more like a PR program for Teodoro instead of a survey report. He dared to cite clearly unproved conditions like Teodoro’s establishing superiority over Noynoy in the debates and performing “heroically” in Maguindanao.

Ed Malay of The Center should stop selling incredible polls and just write for Gilbert Teodoro the equivalent of the Marcos book “For every tear a victory” (written by Hartzell Spence) which was launched in time for the 1965 presidential campaign. Then he can at least gain credibility, especially if he categorizes the book as fiction.

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