5 April 2010
Former Senator and senatorial candidate Francisco “Kit” Tatad today said that while the latest published polls may not accurately measure public opinion about the presidential candidates, they could not fully suppress the massive groundswell in favor of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) candidate.
“Thanks to these methodologically flawed surveys and the great hype with which they are promoted by propagandists, Erap’s real strength and electoral prospects continue to be underestimated. There’s a gross mismatch between the political reality on the ground and the media reality conjured by the surveys. The media frontrunners tend to believe their own propagandists, and that is where the danger lies. They are in for a big surprise,” Tatad said.
Until now the pollsters have failed or refused to disclose all necessary data about their surveys, particularly the identity of those who had paid for the survey, who conducted the survey, the questions asked and the order in which they were asked, including the “rider” questions contributed by secret sponsors, the interview method used, the actual samples used and how they were chosen, the margin of error, and the exact size of the undecided, etc.
By using its own “in-house” researchers to interview respondents, Social Weather Station (SWS) has effectively foreclosed any possibility of an independent verification of its claims, even in the face of possible falsification of data, an acknowledged malpractice in opinion polling, Tatad pointed out.
And by invoking “confidentiality” to avoid disclosing the identity of politicians who pay for surveys, or for “rider” questions in surveys, which are themselves withheld from the public, Pulse Asia avoids any risk of exposing the candidates who earn high “ratings” even without any visible sign of public support among the voters, while simultaneously helping them hide an election expense that, by law, should be reported to the Commission on Elections, Tatad said.
And by using the standard hypothetical and “forced-choice question”
---- “Among the following names, whom would you vote for, if elections were held today?”---both polling firms compel respondents to give “top-of-the-head” responses, thereby effectively suppressing or distorting the actual number of “undecided,” Tatad said.
Thus, while one survey puts the number of undecided votes at five (5) percent of those asked, about 47 percent says they could change their minds anytime on or before election day. Which means that fully 52 percent rather than a measly five (5) percent are actually undecided, or have not firmed up their choices and were simply giving top-of-the-head responses to the hypothetical and “forced-choice question, Tatad explained.
Despite its obvious flaws, the latest SWS pre-election survey for March 19 to 22, 2010, showed Estrada’s rating surging by four (4) percentage points, with Manny Villar dropping by six (6) percentage points, and Noynoy Aquino gaining by only one percentage point. By focusing on Aquino and Villar, most media outlets have failed to highlight the real story, namely, that the most significant surge recorded by the said survey belongs to Estrada.
Tatad said he was confident that if there was any serious attempt to accurately measure popular support for the national candidates by using the correct methodology , asking the right questions, and using truly representative samples, Estrada would be leading the presidential pack at this point, and some candidates, from presidential to senatorial, who are “rating” high in the flawed surveys, would not be rating as high.
“This is akin to the recent American experience when the US pollsters and media were uniformly talking of Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton as the sure contenders in the US presidential elections until the Republican and Democratic conventions chose John McCain and Barack Obama respectively,” Tatad said.
“There’s everything to show that Estrada’s support is firm and strong, while support for his rivals is soft and shifting. After all, Erap is getting it mostly from the C,D,E classes, who constitute some 90 percent of the voters and who relate personally to him. This is evident in town after town, city after city that Erap visits, either before or after the uneventful visit of some of his rivals.
The latest proof of this is the visit Aquino, Villar and Estrada made with Brother Mike Velarde’s El Shaddai charismatic community during their Easter Sunday celebration. Noynoy, accompanied by his celebrity-siter Kris and other siblings, got a warm burst of applause as he read his short speech. But the crowd smothered Estrada with applause and cheers as soon as he appeared on stage and interacted with him all throughout his short appearance,” Tatad observed.
Tatad has questioned the continued pre-election polling by the SWS after it was shown that it had been using a particular “push-poll” to advance its peculiar advocacy of “population control” (now known as “reproductive health”) since 1992 at least, and after its particularly scandalous exit poll in the 2004 presidential elections, which showed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo winning over opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr. in Metro Manila, where in the official count she lost to FPJ everywhere, except in Las Pinas.
SWS was never made to account for that scandal. In the United States, the Literary Digest quickly folded up after wrongly predicting that Alf Landon would defeat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential elections. In 1948, both the US Congress and the US Social Science Research Council investigated Gallup, Crossley and Roper after they had unanimously wrongly predicted the defeat of President Harry S. Truman to Thomas Dewey in the US presidential elections.
SWS has escaped any similar action, and continues to do polling as usual, as though its credibility or integrity had never been questioned, Tatad lamented. Some defenders of the polling firm claim that the 2004 exit poll fiasco had been investigated and that SWS had been absolved of its gross error. But any such investigation, if there was one, appears to have been conducted by SWS itself, only on paper, and neither the investigation nor the result thereof was ever given the same publicity as the disgraceful exit poll, Tatad pointed out.
The same defenders point out that the polling firms have been able to predict accurately the results of some previous senatorial elections.
“There is no reason to be overwhelmed,” says Tatad. “Even a broken clock will show the correct time at least twice in 24 hours. In the case of surveys predicting the results of what are normally imperfect national elections, where the vote count in certain parts of the country is subject to extra-legal negotiations among certain parties, the poll forecast usually dictates the official results,” Tatad said.