POSTSCRIPT / April 28, 2016 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Why we must not trust survey results

WITH just 11 days before Election Day, we should ignore survey reports on the claimed popularity of candidates. The poll results are mostly mind-conditioning devices tricking the gullible to jump onto the supposed winner’s bandwagon and thereby validate the poll claims.

An eerie note is that sometimes the “winning” camp posts a claim that the only way their candidate would lose is for his rivals to steal the election from him – with a warning that robbing him of victory would ignite violent protests.

We all know that in da Pilipins nobody loses an election, he is just cheated.

Sometimes we think that if popularity surveys were indeed reliable measurements of public sentiment, this impoverished country would save a mountain of money and avoid deep partisan division by replacing costly elections with popularity surveys.

After all, Philippine elections are basically nothing but popularity and money contests.

On April 29, 2010, Postscript raised the same warning against being misled by popularity surveys amid propaganda of Candidate X — who claimed he was a sure winner on the basis of the surveys then – that the only way he would lose was for him to be cheated.

The camp of Candidate X was priming the people for taking to the streets — in a clumsy rerun of the EDSA Revolt of 1986 — to grab back the victory that he claimed in advance would be snatched from him.

Celia writes of nobility of character

SHORTLY after my Postscript came out, I found among my email a note from Celia Laurel, the widow of the late Vice President Doy Laurel. She must have been so aggravated by the incendiary propaganda that she took time to write me.

Celia said: “I was reminded of the 1949 presidential elections, when it was widely perceived that Jose P. Laurel was cheated. Furious Batangueños led by leaders like Col. Poling Valeriano and Francisco Medrano wanted to start a revolt in protest.

“But Dr. Laurel calmed them down saying ‘The presidency is not worth a revolution. — I don’t want to go down in history as the man who plunged the country into a bloody revolution that turned it into a banana republic.’

“At a more recent occasion — the EDSA Revolution to be precise — it is said that when Gen. Fabian Ver begged President Marcos to allow him to fire at the mammoth crowd that had congregated on EDSA, Marcos vehemently objected to the plan and forbade Ver to take any drastic action that would hurt the people even if they were rallying against him and could unseat him.

“Both leaders showed nobility of character and a true and selfless love of country.

“Today things are quite the opposite. As you said: ‘The line being developed is that Candidate X is a sure winner by all indications, including surveys. The only way he can lose is if he is cheated. When cheated, people should take to the streets to claim the victory snatched from him.’

“We are warned that ‘People Power’ would take place.

“As you wrote, ‘this is dangerous and irresponsible.’ Indeed it is! It is obvious they don’t care what happens to our people as long as they have their way.

“EDSA I was a brief shining moment in our history. It was hailed and marveled at throughout the world because it was an uncanny spiritual experience — a revolution — achieved through peace, goodwill and prayers. It was a moment that should always live in our hearts.

“But is ‘People Power 2010’ intended to be peaceful as well? Or is it a dismal foreboding that we shall witness a grim reenactment of the carnage that took place in the Mendiola and Doña Luisita massacres IF we don’t make Candidate X win?”

Beware of ‘desktop’ election surveys

ASSUMING the “surveys” are not mere Desktop creations put together for paying customers, how can a tiny sample of 2,000 faceless individuals allegedly picked at random represent the sovereign wish of a universe of 55,739,911 voters registered in the country and abroad?

We have seen how difficult it is for a president elected by a mere plurality of 23 percent (instead of a democratic majority of 50 percent-plus-1) to unite this fractious nation and govern effectively.

What more of the supposed choice of a minuscule .00358 percent of the electorate? Yes, .00358 percent is what 2,000 interviewees out of 55,739,911 registered voters represent. That is even erroneously assuming that 100 percent (!) of the 2,000 respondents chose him.

… And also if it is true that trained field workers actually interviewed in three or four days 2,000 respondents representing the voters registered in the country’s 81 provinces, 1,634 cities and towns, and 42,036 barangays with 369,133 established poll precincts.

No wonder, some candidates consistently leading in surveys had actually lost in past presidential elections and some candidates trailing in the polls won in the final official count.

The population is not homogenous. It is heterogeneous, stratified into half-dozen economic classes distributed in an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands. The classes and sub-sets, differentiated on the basis of various criteria, are motivated by sometimes conflicting needs.

Then there are the “command votes” whose individual preferences are not, and cannot be, reflected, in a general survey. How does one factor into the survey, for instance, the Iglesia ni Cristo, the Solid North, the Quiboloy flock, the bailiwicks of the local warlords, et cetera?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 28, 2016)

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