VOTERS in the Philippines head out on Monday to cast their ballots for the country’s next leaders, and the results would either confirm or debunk pre-election opinion polls that have themselves been a hot issue during the campaign period.
Maria Ela L. Atienza, a political science professor from the University of the Philippines, said while the polls have indicated a clear majority win for frontrunner Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., there were deficiencies this year compared to the survey scene in previous presidential elections.
“SWS did not conduct election polls this year and Pulse Asia has fewer surveys than in 2016,” she told BusinessWorld in a Viber message, referring to research institution Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia Research, Inc.
“They (Pulse Asia and other opinion polling groups) did not have a survey at the end of April. So, as surveys are snapshots of the voters’ preferences as represented by the sample, we have not captured the last few weeks of the campaign,” she said, noting that 45% of voters decide between April to the actual national election day set on the second Monday of May.
As such, the results of the May 9 elections this year will show if the last few weeks of campaigning, particularly on the ground by volunteers of Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo, made a significant impact, Ms. Atienza said.
The latest survey conducted by independent pollster Pulse Asia in mid-April showed 56% of 2,400 respondents said they would vote for Mr. Marcos if the election was held during that period, while Ms. Robredo was at a distant second with 23%.
Senator and retired boxing champion Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao overtook Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko” M. Domagoso with 7%, gaining a point. The mayor lost 4 points to 4%. Senator Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson remained in fifth place with 2%.
Pulse Asia and SWS have faced allegations that opinion polls have been rigged.
“Those who make these unfair and unjust criticisms bear the responsibility for their baseless accusations feeding into the spiral of disinformation and malinformation that afflicts our society,” Pulse Asia President Ronald D. Holmes said in a statement released on May 2
“These false accusations only further deepen polarization and distrust and contribute to the continuous erosion of an already extremely feeble democratic order,” he added.
The Marketing & Opinion Research Society of the Philippines has expressed support for SWS and Pulse Asia, noting their consistency and reliability to “provide public opinion representative of any population of interest.”
“We have always resolved to uphold the highest professional standards in delivering the most precise and representative feedback and insights decision-makers and stakeholders require for either making informed decisions or reflecting on prevailing public opinion,” it said on its website.
Froilan C. Calilung, campaign expert and political science professor at the University of Santo Tomas, also said that certified surveys remain the most accurate barometer of a candidate’s performance.
He cited that in 2010, the late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III reached 42% in pre-election surveys, and won with about the same percentage. In 2016, President Rodrigo R. Duterte received 33% in voter preference polls, and won with 38%.
“The results may not necessarily be a 100% correct, however, their effect on people is very real,” University of the Philippines Associate Professor Perlita M. Frago-Marasigan told BusinessWorld in a Viber message, noting its influence on people’s perceptions.
Outside of the surveys, Ms. Robredo and Mr. Marcos received more attention from voters because they represented two clear opposites, said Ms. Atienza.
“Marcos represents continuity of not only the Duterte policies but revival of martial law nostalgia and revision of Philippine history while Robredo represents the more inclusive governance, equitable development and strengthening of democratic institutions and processes, and a repudiation of Duterte politics of fear, violence and lack of respect for rights,” she said. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan