The rising survey phobia epidemic
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-05-02

The Noynoy Aquino phenomenon – the emergence of a reluctant presidential candidate who is now poised to become the next Philippine president – has spawned another phenomenon. This phenomenon can be called SURVEY PHOBIA or the irrational fear of survey results.

When the results of the April 23–25 Pulse Asia nationwide presidential and vice presidential polls were released last Thursday, there was a sudden rise of survey phobia among the candidates for the top two executive posts of the land and many of their supporters. Before that Pulse Asia release, we usually hear disparaging remarks about the surveys from low rating candidates like Eddie Villanueva.

Villanueva would often cite the supposed 1992 victory of former president Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) as the presidential candidate who won despite performing poorly in the polls of SWS (Social Weather Stations) and Pulse Asia. Villanueva uses that example to promote the idea that he too will win despite his low survey ratings.

That remark makes your Chair Wrecker wonder if Villanueva is suffering from poor memory or intellectual dishonesty. FVR may not have topped the initial 1992 presidential polls but he was certainly the top rater in the last credible polls. In other words, FVR’s victory was consistent with the results of the credible polls.

Even before the release of the Pulse Asia poll, Dick Gordon even went as far as suing the SWS and Pulse Asia in court. Presidential wannabes JC de los Reyes, Nick Perlas, Jamby Madrigal, Gilbert Teodoro, Manny Villar – all expressed their negative reactions to the Pulse Asia survey which showed Noynoy Aquino (with 39%) lead by a huge 19% margin his closest rivals Joseph Estrada and Manny Villar, both of whom rated 20%.

The April 23–25 Pulse Asia poll results were consistent with the previously released SWS, Manila Standard Today, Manila Broadcasting-DZRH surveys which reflected Aquino and Estrada’s upward momentum and Villar’s continued downward spiral. The last time we had such a clear winning trend in the presidential polls was during the 1998 Estrada ascendancy. Estrada won a landslide victory with a 38% vote tally. Aquino is poised to get over 40% of an even larger voting population.

Even Malacanang Palace displayed symptoms of survey phobia after the Pulse Asia survey was released. That was understandable. The 19% and still expanding lead of Aquino can no longer be thwarted by a cheating operation without provoking serious repercussions. With Estrada rising and Villar sinking – as predicted by your Chair Wrecker three weeks ago – the administration is seeing a very hostile new 2010 president. Aquino will prosecute Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) while Estrada will likely do worse to her.

The presidential contest is a foregone conclusion. Your Chair Wrecker’s fearless forecast is that Aquino will get around 42% of the vote, Estrada with about 22 to 25% and Villar with 18% or lower. With just seven days of campaigning left, the trend can no longer be altered.

The real excitement can now be found in the vice presidential race where Aquino running mate, Mar Roxas, was thought to be a runaway winner already. The recent polls have shown a steady drop in Mar’s ratings and a dramatic, worrisome rise in the ratings of erstwhile third placer Jojo Binay.

Mar’s 20-point lead (43% versus 23%) in the March Pulse Asia survey over his then closest rival – Loren Legarda – is now reduced to a 9-point lead (37% versus 28%) over new second placer Jojo Binay. In the NCR (National Capital Region), Binay already led Mar, 38% versus 34%.

Binay picked up a remarkable upward momentum after Loren Legarda’s disastrous performance in the ABS-CBN Harapan among the vice presidential candidates. Dr. Ana Tabunda of Pulse Asia explained that the endorsement of Chiz Escudero for Binay also had a positive effect, adding impetus to Binay’s upward momentum.

The Pulse Asia survey showed a 6% drop in Mar’s ratings from the previous month while Binay registered a 9% rise. That big jump in Binay’s rating would indicate the possibility that he could overtake Mar. If Binay gains just 5% at the expense of Mar, he will win the vice presidential election.

Crucial for Binay, if he is to win, is to accomplish the following:

1. Reduce the big Mar lead in the Visayas, 44% versus 21%. The plus/minus 5% winning factor could easily come from there.

2. Win in Luzon where Mar has a 5% lead.

3. Maximize on the classes D and E where his genuine mahirap (poor) roots can gain more traction.

Your Chair Wrecker believes that one-on-one brand match ups may be the reason for the sudden change in the vice presidential landscape. Between Mar Roxas and Loren Legarda, there is a strong preference for Mar. Your Chair Wrecker has posited early on that Loren is a weak brand.

When voters saw the choice of vice president as between Mar Roxas and Jojo Binay, the preference had significantly shifted. That accounts for Binay’s upward momentum and Mar’s rating downtrend. This means that the voters only really gave Binay serious thought after he caught up with Loren and showed that he could win.

This also means that Binay’s key messages have gained traction – his “once poor” story and accomplishment track record in Makati. The current TV ad of Binay (“What other vice presidential candidates promise, Binay already accomplished in Makati) is quite powerful.

Makati City’s health care and education programs are the envy of many cities and municipalities in the country and a recent survey showed that health care is a major voting consideration. Mar is not entirely without an accomplishment in the health care department. Mar crafted the better version of the Cheaper Medicines Act.

It will be a very interesting vice presidential battle between Mar Roxas and Jojo Binay. Both of them have good “true stories” to tell and good track records and personal qualities to offer. Ground machinery will play a vital factor in this battle, specifically the vice presidential candidate whom many local leaders will carry.

Binay’s having been a local executive, his membership in the League of Cities and Municipalities – may have provided him an inside track. What weighs heavily for Mar is that he is the running mate of Noynoy Aquino, now widely perceived as the next president. Local leaders tend to gravitate to the new president.

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