This took some time, but here, finally, goes nothing.
Despite John Marzan’s earnest good cheer I cannot but take surveys seriously. I think the best ones have done well over time to reflect Philippine experience as we know it. I like the example that Winnie Monsod has created, of a citizen intelligently coming to terms with survey results. (See here and here; her second column, however, takes a major extrapolatory leap that I cannot quite agree with.)
Public opinion polling is a tool that a modern democracy cannot do without, if it is to remain both modern and democratic. (So if Malacanang issues a new executive order or a new proclamation undermining the conduct of surveys, we should know what to think.) Like any tool, of course, surveys can be misused.
On to John’s comments:
1. I respect the work of both Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia, and (in the Philippine context) only those two. Ibon is an ideology in search of statistical validation; the many small ones that sprouted before the 1998 elections (showing Jose de Venecia gaining on Joseph Estrada, for example) and the 2004 vote (Proberz, to name only the most risible) are political operations disguised as opinion surveys.
2. Like many others, I have always tried to understand the Pulse and SWS surveys in context; when SWS released its flawed Metro Manila exit poll in 2004, I like many others felt disoriented, because the results were at such a variance with what we knew first or second hand. (SWS has since explained why that particular day-of-election survey turned out that way.)
3. John Marzan points out, in his first comment, "that the problem with this survey john nery is that there’s no "people power" option na pwedeng piliin sa survey." I agree, John. But the lumping together of the five resignation options Pulse Asia polled into one overall resignation category, with a rating of 59 percent, is Pulse Asia’s own doing. And that is the news hook Pulse Asia led its news release with. I see where I could possibly have been less than clear, when I wrote:
These days, with resignation in general terms the popular option, I think of the outrage gap in terms of the difference between those who want her to resign (all together, 59 percent of voting-age Filipinos) and those who are actually out in the streets, demanding her resignation.
What I meant by "out in the streets" was active participation in the political process, but not necessarily of the people-power kind. In general terms, I think John and I are in fact reading from the same page: we both think the five resignation options listed by Pulse Asia are not necessarily mutually exclusive. We simply can’t add the numbers up. But I do think that, in general terms, and based on my own reading of current political realities, a majority of voting-age Filipinos thinks of resignation as the popular option.
4. Did Joseph Estrada have good numbers back in late 2000 and early 2001? Relative to Gloria Arroyo’s dismal numbers, I guess the answer is yes. But relative to Estrada’s own previously stratospheric ratings, his net satisfaction index of positive 9 in December 2000 was in fact a fall from grace. (Again, I am uncomfortable with the use of net numbers, but that is what SWS and Pulse Asia offer us. But a look at both the gross satisfaction rating [44 percent, down from 49 from September 2000] and gross dissatisfaction rating [35, up from 31] suggests that Estrada was weakening politically.)
5. John suggests that the real moral of the story can be stated thus: "as long as you have the military’s support, you can do "people power", kahit na minority lang ang gustong magpabagsak sa isang presidente na katulad ni erap." In both people-power uprisings, the military was an active component. But contrary to what RAM leader Gregorio Honasan may still think, Edsa 1986 was led by civilians; the military played catch-up. Same thing in Edsa 2001; Gen. Angelo Reyes saw the people’s exuberant handwriting on the wall, and decided to withdraw support from the President who had deep-selected him. But in both instances, I think the military action (that of an ambitious minority in 1986, that of an anxious chain of command in 2001) only reflected currents in public opinion. In the February 26, 2006 "standoff" inside Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Marine Col. Ariel Querubin called on what he must have thought was the key to public opinion to come to his side. "I hope the bishops will not forsake us." My own take on this: Soldiers read surveys too. They watch video footage of street protests. And they can do the math.