It’s easy enough to understand the concept of a net rating. You subtract the satisfaction score (in the case of SWS; approval, in Pulse Asia’s) from the dissatisfaction (or disapproval) rating. I’m not really sure, though, whether this emphasis on the difference makes, well, a difference.
One thing I’m sure of: The net rating, as an input for analysis, can be misleading. (Is this perhaps the reason why countries with a longer tradition of opinion polling, such as the US and the UK, do not use net scores?)
Consider the latest SWS survey. Without a doubt, the results show a worse opinion climate for President Arroyo; the fourth-quarter survey should strike fear in the hearts of the President and her men. Conducted at almost exactly the same time as the country’s successful hosting of the Southeast Asian Games, and during a period of macroeconomic good news, the survey should have reflected an opinion boost for the President. No such thing.
But the emphasis on the net scores (GMA’s net satisfaction rating had gone down to -30, her second-worst ever) makes it harder to understand what it is people really are saying. The real story lies in the actual satisfaction and dissatisfaction numbers, not in the (extrapolated) differential.
For example: GMA’s worst net rating was -33, in the second quarter, at the height of the jueteng scandal. One would think that her satisfaction rating then was lower than her satisfaction rating in the fourth quarter. Actually, she enjoyed a 26-percent level of support last May (when her net was at its lowest) — higher than the fourth quarter’s 24 percent. (I know, I know; this is still within the margin of error, but you do get my point, right?)
Another example: One would think that she got a higher dissatisfaction rating across-the-board in the second quarter. Actually, the Mindanao numbers tell a different story: 47 percent in May, 52 percent in early November-late December.
What we should really be focused on are the President’s actual level of support (measured by satisfaction or approval indices) OR the level of resistance (dissatisfaction or disapproval). Perhaps, for a start, we can posit the following: Based on the Estrada experience, a level of support below 25 percent would be problematic. Based on the results of presidential elections since 1992, a level of resistance above 60 percent would be dangerous.