Having covered and observed so many elections during the entire history of our newspaper service, The Manila Times knows enough of the stratagems of candidates to regard with skepticism the various pre-election surveys that are being touted blithely as “the beat of public opinion.”
We believe it’s time to ask hard questions about these surveys and about who are paying for them. Do they really serve a public purpose or just the interest of politicians?
Why on earth are the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia already conducting so-called pre-election surveys, even when the elections are as far away as two years, a year, or six months away on May 13, 2019?
How can these pollsters expect Filipino voters to make a judgment on their desired candidates when there is still no known information on who will be the candidates in next year’s elections? When the candidates have not even filed yet their certificates of candidacy?
Based on our research, we have discovered how enterprising and farsighted the pollsters are in conducting these pre-election polls. Specifically, we want to put on exhibit the following:
1) As early as November and December 2017, two-and-a-half years away from the balloting, SWS and Laylo Research Strategies were already conducting surveys on the May 2019 senatorial elections.
Amazingly, each of them came up with a ready list of “magic 12s” to tout possible candidates whom the electorate would support in the election.
SWS conducted its survey on Dec. 8-16, 2017. Laylo Research Strategies conducted its survey on Nov. 11-19, 2017. Included in their lists of favorites were re-electionist senators who are the main source of funding for the research.
2) On September 1-7 this year, Pulse Asia conducted a survey nationwide of 1,800 respondents, to determine possible candidates with a high chance of winning in the May 2019 elections. The respondents were asked to choose up to 12 names in a list provided by Pulse Asia.
The names that came up were the usual suspects: reelectionist senators who subscribe year-round at taxpayers’ expense to the surveys.
3) Last week, SWS released the results of a pre-election survey on the May senatorial elections that was reportedly commissioned by a certain Alde Joselito Pagulayan of Lakas CMD.
The survey came up with its own list of favorite possible candidates, which included again the usual suspects in preferential polls.
It may be argued that these surveys will help the political parties, as well as the administration, in selecting their candidates for the Senate.
They will assist individual candidates to make up their minds about running for office.
The questions that trouble us most are (1) the patent deception of the public by these surveys which are not based on actual candidacies; (2) the conditioning of the public mind on the acceptability of possible candidates; and (3) the distortion of the news value of election surveys, which form part of the service of all news media.
In asking these questions, we want to assist in seeking answers to problems in our electoral politics and our public life.
In his book The Opinion Makers (Bacon Press, Boston, 2009), David Moore, a political science professor and formerr senior editor of the Gallup poll, rightly warns that public opinion research tends to manufacture public opinion, instead of merely reports what is on the public mind.
We are troubled that here in the Philippines, opinion research is driven too much by commercialism and manipulation. And it is during election time that poll survey firms become most vulnerable.