I think the “public relations professional” Manolo Quezon talked to, about the uses of pre-election survey results, got it all wrong. He should give his clients their money back.
Note from the above that there are two figures in play: “Awareness,” and “Voting For.” As a public relations professional explained it to me, the relationship between the two works as follows. Let’s take Senator Angara:
Edgardo “Ed” J. Angara Aware: 92 Voting For: 24.0
Basically, this means that 92% of voters already know who he is; that of those polled, 24% or slightly under a quarter of the voters, intend to vote for him. We can infer that he has just about reached the peak of his potential as a candidate. The most he could gain -if there was ever such a thing as 100% awareness- is 8%, for a total of 32% of the vote (and that’s a big if), which means he could only aspire to bumping off Alan Peter Cayetano.
That PR professional mistakes awareness as the more important of the two factors; it is, in fact, the Voting For measure that is more important. That is why Pulse Asia, which carried out the survey in question last month, ranks the candidates according to their Voting For scores, rather than their Awareness levels.
This explains why the PR professional Manolo paraphrases made the wrong inference. Angara, to borrow Manolo’s own example, has most definitely not “reached the peak of his potential as a candidate.” To think otherwise is to misread the data. The name of the game is, and has always been, conversion: how much of a candidate’s awareness can be converted into votes.
Naturally, awareness is important, but it is only of secondary importance.
Consider the ratings of Loren Legarda, far and away the candidate to beat in this year’s Senate race. In the July 2006 Pulse Asia survey, she had an awareness level of 87 percent and a Voting For score of 48.6. In the November 2006 poll, her numbers improved: awareness of 99 percent, Vote factor of 52.9. In the January 2007 survey, there was a tempering in her numbers: 96, 46.6. But her lead, at the moment, is unassailable — not because nobody has awareness levels matching hers (in November Ping Lacson and Kiko Pangilinan loitered in the same part of the stratosphere) but because she converts much better than anyone else (in January, Lacson was a far second).
Angara’s potential as a candidate, therefore, rests on his Voting For score. His game plan is clear: convert more of those voters who say they are aware of him. If, for lack of a better benchmark, we designate Loren’s Vote factor in November — an astonishing 52.9 percent — as the peak of a candidate’s potential, then Angara is less than halfway there.
Can someone with Angara’s numbers now (92, 24) increase his potential? Or, to phrase the problem differently, can someone increase his Vote factor without increasing his awareness level? Well, let’s look at the last Senate race.
We all know that Mar Roxas, with the help of an overwhelming ad campaign and a strategic romance, topped that particular race. But he did not start out in pole position.
In the February 2004 Pulse Asia survey, he had an awareness level of 98 percent and a Voting For score of 26.3 (tied for fifth to 13th place). Only six weeks later, in the March 2004 survey, he retained his awareness level of 98 percent — but dramatically increased his Vote factor to 40.1, to take undisputed first place.
I hope that PR guy Manolo talked to does not have clients in politics.