Net dissatisfaction

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.

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2 Comments

Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

2 responses to “Net dissatisfaction

  1. DJB

    Hi John. Saw the link to this topic at MLQ3’s. The NET SATISFACTION RATING (positive minus negative) is a perfectly good statistic. But what most media don’t seem to know is that as a statistic it has TWICE THE ERROR as the individual components. So if you are CALCULATING NSR from a survey with 1200 respondents, the raw data has an error margin of about plus or minus 3% (actually its one over the square root of 1200, but never mind), the MARGIN OF ERROR in the NSR is PLUS OR MINUS 6%

    There is no free lunch in statistics. It gets worse. If you subtract one quarter’s NSR from that of the previous quarter, the resulting NSR trend has error bars that are PLUS OR MINUS 12% tall. Look back at all your headlines and have a laugh at words like PLUNGE and PLUMMET and SOAR.

    INNUMERACY man.

  2. Merry Christmas Mr. Dashing! Lots of warm hugs to the family (and kisses to the little ones). Hope I get to visit next year and see my godson before he starts captivating all the little girly hearts in the schoolyard. 🙂 I miss you all!

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