POSTSCRIPT / March 11, 2010 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Aquino’s 2-point lead isn’t a ‘statistical tie’?

NOT A TIE: The media are again replete with reports that the two leading presidential candidates in the May elections are “statistically tied.” Some quarters do not see a tie.

In the last (Feb. 24-28) nationwide survey of the Social Weather Stations, Liberal presidential bet Noynoy Aquino got 36 percent of the 2,100 voters interviewed while Nacionalista candidate Manny Villar garnered 34 percent, or a difference of two percentage points.

The results were a departure from the results of the Feb. 21- 25 survey of Pulse Asia showing Aquino (36 percent) leaving Villar (29 percent) behind by six percentage points.

Because the latest SWS survey had a margin of error of plus/minus two percent, some people added two percent to Villar’s 34 percent and, voila, saw a deadlock, euphemistically calling it a “statistical tie.”

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TIGHT RACE: A margin of error is unavoidable since only a random sample of 2,100 of some 35 million expected voters were interviewed in far-from-perfect field conditions. It applies to all the scores, not only to that of one candidate.

The size of the margin of error (plus/minus two percent in the SWS survey) indicates how the poll results are close to the “true” figures had all the voters been interviewed.

If we add two points to Villar’s score as we do in doing equations, we must also add two points to Aquino’s — not only to be fair but also to maintain the integrity of the mathematical comparison.

We should allow both sides in the equation to move up or down together instead of adding to one side and leaving the other side as is, then making a skewed conclusion.

So if we add two points (as margin of error) to both contenders, the two-percentage-point difference between them stays. Aquino stays ahead with two percentage points. There is no tie.

To many laymen, a more truthful way of reporting the supposed “statistical tie” is to describe the race as “close” or “tight.”

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CHARTS MOVING: But the two-percentage-point difference is insignificant, because it is too small to give either Aquino or Villar an edge that could spell victory or defeat on May 10.

With two months to go before Election Day, the charts – assuming the surveys are reliable gauges of voters’ preferences — are still moving.

One creeping movement worth watching is that while the top two candidates have been wavering a bit, some of their rivals pursuing them have been gaining ground, not in big strides but in sure small steps.

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NECK-AND-NECK: Aquino lost three points in Metro Manila, which is supposed to be among his bailiwicks since voters in and near the national capital tend to be oppositionist. He also lost seven points in the rest of Luzon, six in Mindanao and five points in the Visayas.

If it is any comfort to him, his rival Villar lost bigger (six points) in Metro Manila, two in the rest of Luzon and one point in Mindanao. But the NP bet gained five points in the Visayas, where Aquino lost five (coincidence?) points.

In sum, Aquino continued to lead in Metro Manila, the Visayas, and Mindanao, but Villar was ahead in the rest of Luzon.

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THE PURSUERS: The SWS said many of the points lost by Aquino and Villar may have gone to those trailing them.

Former President Erap Estrada of the Puersa ng Masang Pilipino, No. 3 on the list, improved his standing by two points to score 15 percent. The fourth-placer, administration bet Gibo Teodoro of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, gained two points to log six percent.

Estrada gained six points in Metro Manila, three in Mindanao, one in the rest of Luzon, but lost two points in the Visayas. That six-point gain in Metro Manila, which is thought to be resistant to showbiz dazzle, was a surprise.

Teodoro went up by three points each in the rest of Luzon and in Mindanao, and by one in the Visayas, but lost one point in Metro Manila.

Teodoro’s camp is scrambling for his hitting a two-digit score, the theory being that once he climbs to that level he may join the lead pack down the wire.

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MAR ON TOP: There is no “statistical tie” to debate about in the vice presidential race. Liberal bet Mar Roxas kept a big lead over Nacionalista’s Loren Legarda, scoring 45 percent to her 28 percent in the SWS survey.

Legarda and the other vice presidential bets never posed a threat to Roxas in both the SWS and the Pulse Asia surveys. In fact, while his standard bearer Aquino has lost some ground, Roxas has been rising.

Like his presidential partner Estrada, PMP’s Jojo Binay is also in the double-digit league at 17 percent.

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MONEY FLOWS: As they say, all politics is local politics. This will be more evident when the campaign of local candidates starts on March 26.

And if past elections are any indication, money and machinery will take over toward the homestretch. Candidates whose parties have not been maintained down to the grassroots and who are short of cash are likely to fall by the wayside.

To get an idea of the massive spending, note that Villar’s expenditures alone on political advertising from Nov. 1 last year to March 2 this year has been reported at over P1.3 billion.

Estrada reportedly ranks second with P88 million, followed by Aquino with P87 million, Gordon with P67.3 million, and Teodoro with P60.4 million worth of TV commercials since the start of the campaign period.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 11, 2010)

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