The other rally factor

The results of the third-quarter SWS survey suggest, at least to me, that the political crisis may be having the same effect as other similar crises in the past: that is, it is starting to lead Filipinos to rally around national leaders. How is that even possible? Bear with me.

In the second-quarter survey, taken in May or before the Garcillano tapes first surfaced, Vice President Noli de Castro had a satisfaction rating of 52 percent, versus a dissatisfaction number of 30 percent. In the third-quarter survey, conducted from August 26 to September 5 or at the height of the impeachment debate in Congress, De Castro’s numbers improved, to 60 percent vs. 22 percent. In other words, the increase in his satisfaction ratings and the drop in his dissatisfaction score were both outside the margin of error, of plus or minus 3.

The next three officials in the line of presidential succession also enjoyed a similar firming up of satisfaction numbers (although not all changes were outside the margin of error). From 41 percent satisfied, Senate President Franklin Drilon’s rating went up to 48 percent. Speaker Jose de Venecia’s numbers remained steady at 37 percent, but Chief Justice Hilario Davide’s rating improved from 37 percent to 42 percent.

The improvements in their dissatisfaction ratings are even more marked: Drilon, from 33 to 26; De Venecia, from 39 to 36; Davide, from 36 to 29.

In the aftermath of the Magdalo mutiny, the President’s numbers improved   — even though many Filipinos thought the mutineers had justifiable reasons for rising in revolt. If I remember Pulse Asia founder Felipe Miranda correctly, he had said then that this is always what happens in crises of state; the public rallies around the commander-in-chief.

I think it is inaccurate (or mere wishful thinking) to say that, because the President’s numbers have somewhat improved, from 26 percent satisfied to 30 percent and from 59 percent dissatisfied down to 53 percent, that public support is coalescing around the very person at the exact center of the crisis.

But it could be that, in this time of uncertainty, some of that rally-around-the-symbol effect has already been transferred, or is in the process of being transferred, to the next four officials in line.

PS. As some of you may have noticed, I have not quoted any "net" ratings, the differentials which on an instinctive level I find difficult to accept; to me, they are a statistical construct, a step further from the results; other countries with well-developed polling cultures do not use net ratings, and do not seem to be the worse for it.)

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