Soldiers read surveys too

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.

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6 Comments

Filed under Readings in Politics

6 responses to “Soldiers read surveys too

  1. donn

    Mabuhay si Monsod. True blue GMA loyalist.

    Good riddance all anti-GMA vermins.

  2. DJB

    Hi there John, This was a doozey of a survey because of that funky non-binomial question design. But Pulse Asia seems to have everyone convinced that 59% want the President to resign along one of the five scenarios.

    But what is the statistical uncertainty in this COMPOSITE pro-resign figure?

    Since the respondents were not allowed multiple choices, making the choices mutually exclusive, I think this means you have to ADD up the individual uncertainties or margins of error. so it’s 59% plus or minus 15% (5 time 3%) It’s like the business of the net satisfaction rating, which has moe of plus or minus six percent.

    I think in general that this type of question design is flawed. The error analysis of standard statistical surveys relies on the questions being binary (i.e. more or less answerable by yes or no.)

    The statisticians like Felipe Miranda can get fancy with question design, sometimes for ideological or political purposes. But there is no free lunch in the math.

  3. I agree with DJB that the way the survey was poorly made.

    =====

    “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.)”

    Pulse numbers o SWS ang ginamit mo, John? I think you forgot to include the links to your stats.

  4. ito pala yung ginamit mo, SWS. Check out Arroyo’s numbers compared to the other presidents.

  5. andrew17robin

    THE current events in the Philippines are in themselves a reflection of complete chaos and disillusionment of everyone involved. Credibility is and has always been a question in the quality of government. And here’s another blow to this credibility, an “attempted coup” that failed. What else is new in our political arena?
    All these selfish attempts at a power grab by politicians and military officials with their own personal agendas must stop.
    And why is Cory Aquino in the middle of all of this? She had her time and what did she do? She did nothing really, aside from surviving numerous coup attempts. How about with Fidel Ramos, who can’t seem to figure out on whose side he is? His is political grandstanding at it’s best.
    To the opposition and the pros, please wake up and look at the bigger picture. The only ones who are benefiting from this madness are these communist radicals who are clinging to the glitter of hope that is somehow being realized in the Philippines. Communism died a long time ago, but they have a good grip on this very fragile democratic country.
    I’m not saying that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is the best bet, but who do you have right now to steer this ailing ship? This country is not beyond repair. But it does need a lot of work by all parties involved.
    But two wrongs do not make a right. Arroyo must start a hands-on leadership process. She must start patching things up and fixing the problem areas. She must work with the military, to start with. She must start dialogues to hear the grievances of soldiers, government workers, and fix the problems right away.
    Arroyo must show her dedication and work hard with the masses, who are the ones suffering from decades of unstable governments. In turn, she will get the support of her opponents, and hopefully calm things down. For her to restore the country’s credibility, the effort must come from every citizen. We must ask ourselves what we can do for our country, and not what their country can do for them.
    Many of us have learned to go on with our lives, ignoring what goes on in government or in politics. Making politics and government as irrelevant as possible enables us to concentrate on more productive endeavors instead of belly-aching and being obsessed about the situation. Besides, there’s something about ranting that turns people off. Like it or not, for the message to be effective, it has to be made attractive and palatable. You can’t always be preaching to the converted because it turns out to be so tiring, repetitive and a waste of time

  6. John, my apologies for the late reply. Yes, I used the SWS data. Unfortunately, I could not link directly to the files themselves. I have seen your chart before; it does make one think, yes?

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