My apologies for cross-posting from Inquirer Current, but that blog is taking forever to load today. Besides, the topic — Are Filipinos intelligent voters? — fits in nicely with this blog’s particular obsessions.
In Current, the post is entitled “Learning from Loren.”
The other day, I was asked yet another question about intelligent electorates. Do Filipinos vote for the most popular, even if the most popular are not necessarily the most qualified? Or (to use the terms the interviewers used): Is the Filipino “audience” intelligent? How about the Filipino “electorate”?
I gave a qualified answer, of course, making a distinction between the way we vote for the presidency and the way we vote for the Senate. I use that same distinction in my column of February 10, where I propose that our next president, come May 2010, can only be either of the following: Kabayan, Loren, Manny Villar, Chiz, Ping, and Mar. (Is the fact that Manny Villar does not have a ready one-word handle boon or bane?)
But it is possible, even when we only have a single vote to cast rather than the 12 we can use for the Senate, to send clear signals to the candidates, a point I raised in passing in my column of February 3.
Consider the case of Loren Legarda. The 1998 Senate topnotcher, she did not do well in the voters’ preferences surveys conducted by SWS in the run-up to the 2004 vote.
In the December 2002 survey, for example, Raul Roco and FPJ topped the list, with Kabayan and GMA in striking distance. Loren, however, had a measly dieter’s slice of the pie.
In that same survey, however, Legarda did quite well in the vice-presidential list. She placed second to Kabayan (who had just topped the Senate race a year and a half before, in 2001).
As it turns out (here is an SWS news release for its November 2003 survey, about a year after the first poll), Legarda’s vice-presidential qualities (to coin a phrase) impressed more and more Filipinos. By November 2003, the race between De Castro and Legarda had become a real contest.
My point: In 2004, voters were discriminating enough to make a distinction between Legarda as president and Legarda as vice-president. (In contrast, voters were equally happy to say they would vote for Noli de Castro either as president or as vice-president — at least until FPJ threw his hat into the ring.) I see that distinction-making as a sign that, in fact, and by and large, voters in the aggregate know what they want.
Here, then, is intelligence, of a sort, at work.