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Personal optimism hits record high

Posted on May 26, 2015

MORE FILIPINOS feel their lot has improved over the past year and expect life to get better in the next 12 months, even as fewer were as optimistic on the economy into 2016, according to results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

The survey -- conducted on March 20-23 among 1,200 adults nationwide and with sampling error margins of three points for national percentages, and six points each for Metro Manila, “Balance of Luzon,” the Visayas and Mindanao -- bared a new record-high net personal optimism score of +37 (the difference between “optimists” and “pessimists”), classified by SWS as “very high,” consisting of 42% who expect their quality of life to improve in the next 12 months (“optimists”) and 5% who expect it to get worse (“pessimists”).

While the first-quarter net personal optimism score -- classified by SWS as “very high” -- beat the previous record-high of +36 logged in June 2010, it was still just a two-point rise from December 2014’s similarly “very high” net +35 (41% optimists minus 6% pessimists).

On the SWS net personal optimism scale, scores of at least +30 are classified as “very high” while those +20 to +29 are deemed “high.” The range of +10 to +19 that contains the historical median and mode -- or what is normally expected -- is classified as “fair.” The range of +1 to +9 is classified as “mediocre” since it is below the median or what is normally expected, scores of zero to -- 9 are classified as “low,” while those -- 10 and below are “very low.”

SWS considers movement from one classification to another as either an upgrade or downgrade.

The same survey also found 27% of those surveyed as optimistic that the economy would improve while 20% felt it would deteriorate, yielding a “high” +6 net optimism about the economy.

But this was still a 10-point decline -- and one grade down -- from the “very high” +16 (31% optimistic about the economy minus 15% pessimistic about the economy) recorded in the December 2014 survey.

“In the case of net optimism about the economy, the most common answers, historically speaking, have been highly negative,” the survey group said.

For net optimism about the economy, SWS considers “very high” scores of at least +10; those +1 to +9 as “high”; zero to -9 as “fair” noting that “a slightly negative score is already better than normal”; -- 10 to -- 19 as “mediocre”; -- 20 to -- 29 as “low”; and scores -- 30 and below as “very low.”

The first-quarter survey also tracked change in personal quality of life from 12 months back, finding that 32% felt their lives improved (“gainers”) while 26% said they worsened (“losers”), yielding a “high” +6 net gainers score (difference between gainers and losers).

This, SWS noted is the highest in 28 years since March 1987 -- when it was a record-high very high +11 -- and is a seven-point increase from the “fair” -- 1 (29% gainers minus 30% losers) logged in December last year.

The two-point rise in the national net personal optimism to +37 was driven by the seven-point rise to a “very high” +40 in “Balance Luzon” that made up for one-point increments each in Metro Manila (a “very high” +39) and the Visayas (a “high” +28), and which offset a nine-point drop in Mindanao (a “very high” +35).

Moreover, compared to the December 2014 survey, net personal optimism stayed “very high” across socioeconomic classes though changes were negligible from December.

SWS noted further that the 10-point fall in national net optimism about the economy was due to decreases of 24 points in Mindanao (down one grade to a “high” +5) and 11 points in “Balance Luzon” (down a grade to a “high” +2) that offset increases of four points in the Visayas (up a grade to a “very high” +13) and just two points in Metro Manila (still “very high” at +14).

Also, net optimism about the economy declined across classes. It fell by by 31 points and two grades to a “fair” -2 in class ABC, by 12 points and one grade to a “high” +9 among those belonging to class E and by seven points and a grade to a “high” +6 in class D.

Moreover, except for “Balance Luzon” where the “net gainer” reading rose just three points though to a record “high” +9 in March, all other geographical areas recorded significant increases in those saying their lives improved over the preceding 12 months: Metro Manila saw a 17-point and one-grade rise to a “high” +8, the Visayas posted a 10-point and one-grade hike to a “fair” -2, while Mindanao recorded a seven-point and one-grade climb to +7. SWS uses the same grading system for “net gainers” and “net optimism about the economy.”

In terms of socioeconomic class, “net gainers” stayed “very high” among those in class ABC, though up by just a point to +20; rose by two grades and 21 points to a “high” +4 among class E and stayed “high” -- though up four points to a new record-high +4 -- in class D.

Sought for comment, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma said via text that “people’s optimism contributes to creating a wholesome environment for the full fruition of long-standing aspirations.”

Acknowledging that “it’s a bit surprising that there’s a dip in optimism about the economy,” Mr. Coloma said: “We are optimistic that our economy will grow faster this year and believe that, in time, our people will realize this too.”

Last quarter’s economic growth -- scheduled to be reported this Thursday -- is widely expected to have outpaced the year-ago’s 5.6% and hovered around the five-quarter-high 6.9% recorded in 2014’s final three months. -- with A. M. Monzon

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