THE RATIO of Filipinos who expect to be worse off in the next 12 months rose to a record 43% in May, as the world battles a novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll.

The ratio of pessimists was the highest in the 37-year history of the polling firm, breaking the previous record of 34% in March 2005, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, 24% of Filipinos expected their quality of life to stay the same, while another 24% expected it to improve, SWS said.

Net optimism (optimists minus pessimists) was lower among people with less education. By educational attainment, only college graduates received a low net optimism score while the rest received very low scores, it said.

Meanwhile, by job situation, net personal optimism was higher among those who had a job and were getting full pay, and those who never had a job.

It was lower among people who lost a job or were not getting income even if they had a job, SWS said.

The presidential palace said the poll results were to be expected because of the lockdown.

“That poll happened at the height of our quarantine,” presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque told a news briefing. “We know the whole nation and the entire world will suffer because the economy was shut.”

SWS said only 12 of 135 surveys since 1984 had a score of net zero or lower. Out of the 12, the score reached very low levels in October 2000 (–13), March 2005 (–13), May 2005 (–12) and May 2020 (–18).

“Negative ratings in 1984, 2000, and 2005 were associated with political unrest in the late Marcos-era, the impeachment crisis of Joseph Estrada and the controversial 2004 election of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” it said.

SWS interviewed 4,010 Filipinos on May 4 to 10 for the poll, which had an error margin of ±2 points.

It earlier said eight of 10 Filipinos said they became worse off in the past 12 months, also a record number.

It said 83% of Filipinos said their quality of life worsened, 6% said it improved, while 10% said it was unchanged.

This resulted in an “extremely low” net score of -78 from a “very high” +18 in December, the pollster said. It was the worst figure since the “low” -50 in June 2008, it added.

The number of Filipinos who said they were worse off was the highest in the Visayas, which had a net score of -82, followed by Mindanao at -80, Metro Manila at -77 and the rest of Luzon at -75.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the entire island of Luzon in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the pandemic. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.

At the time, areas under strict lockdown were Metro Manila, Central Luzon (except Aurora), Calabarzon region, Benguet, Pangasinan, Iloilo, Cebu and the cities of Bacolod and Davao. All other areas were under a more relaxed general quarantine. — Genshen L. Espedido