The latest Pulse Asia survey is, yet again, an inkblot test for these parlous, politically divisive times — that is to say, there is something in it for both Enteng Romano of the Black and White Movement and Bong Austero of I-am-angry email fame.
The headline in the Inquirer today is straight out of the Pulse Asia news release. That is to say, the adding up of the 59 percent who want President Arroyo to resign and the 6 percent who want her removed through either a coup or foreign intervention is Pulse Asia’s own computation. I do recall reading something from Romano’s reply to the Austero email (at that time, still largely "anonymous") about the surveys; that the President’s numbers actually showed that a majority of Filipinos want her out of Malacanang. The aggregate numbers in this latest survey, even a first reading of the results will show, favor Romano.
But the devil is in the details, yes? When the numbers are broken down into their constituent parts, the very notion of a consensus crumbles.
Let us discount the 6 percent who prefer a forcible removal; it seems to me that the violence implied in this option makes it qualitatively different from the options for resignation — and thus, quite possibly, anathema to a majority of Filipinos.
Let’s deal with the 59 percent who say they want Arroyo to resign:
- 16 percent say they want GMA to resign and a snap election held
- 14 percent say they want VP Noli de Castro to take over
- 12 percent say they want both GMA and Noli to resign, followed by a snap election
- 10 percent say they want GMA to be replaced by a temporary council
- 7 percent say they want Noli to temporarily take over "while preparing for a new government under a new Constitution"
On the other hand, 34 percent say they want GMA to continue:
- 23 percent say until her term ends in 2010
- 11 percent say until a new parliamentary set-up is ready, even before 2010
Of all possible options, then, the continue-the-course-until-2010 actually ends up with the plurality — an interpretation that favors Austero. Are we splitting political hairs? Possibly. But since politics is the realm of the possible, we need to look at the actual scenarios the pollster used in the survey.
One more ink-blot example.
The increase in the number of Visayas respondents who say, in the aggregate, that GMA should resign (from 47 in October to 59 in March) should be worrying for the President; the Visayas, after all, has always been her bailiwick. But the swing in "middle-class" sentiment, while still (barely) within the margin of error, should boost her morale. From 62 percent in October 2005, the number of Filipinos in the influential demographic classes ABC who preferred her resignation fell to 57 percent in March — still a statistical majority, but a conspicuous change nevertheless.