surveys and the filipino elite

after reading randy david’s  Surveys and public opinion, i googled for more and found that, while it is conceded that election polls can influence voters in different ways:

The bandwagon effect, when voters rally to the leading candidate;
The underdog effect, when voters rally to the trailing candidate;
The demotivating effect, when voters decide not to vote because their candidate is already sure to win;
The motivating effect, when voters go to the precincts because the polls alerted them to the election; or
The free-will effect when voters cast their votes to prove the polls wrong.

and that, while even congress passed the Fair Election Act in february 2001, providing that

5.4. Surveys affecting national candidates shall not be published fifteen (15) days before an election and surveys affecting local candidates shall not be published seven (7) days before an election.

surprise, surprise, the davide supreme court ruled in may 2001 that

§5.4 is invalid because (1) it imposes a prior restraint on the freedom of expression, (2) it is a direct and total suppression of a category of expression even though such suppression is only for a limited period, and (3) the governmental interest sought to be promoted can be achieved by means other than suppression of freedom of expression.

googled some more and stumbled on this find: The Politics of “Public Opinion” in the Philippines (2010) by Eva Lotte E. Hedman, research fellow, London School of Economics.  excerpts [bolds mine]:

Since the restoration of formal democratic institutions and practices in 1986 … the Philippines has seen a more gradual and limited transformation in the mobilisation of voters. This change is inextricably linked with the increasing circulation in Philippine politics and society of what is commonly referred to as “public opinion.” As argued in this paper, the sheer accumulation and anticipation of surveys, reflecting back to the (disaggregated) public their (aggregated) opinion, have become inextricably linked to dynamics of bandwagoning, as well as to efforts at what scholars have described as “political branding” (Pasotti 2009). [Journal Of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 29(4), 97-118. 101. Retrieved April 8, 2013.

… “public opinion” has gained greater circulation as political discourse and social fact in Philippine politics and society, with the popularity and poll ratings of candidates – rather than the construction and maintenance of machines – viewed as an increasingly effective and decisive mode of voter mobilisation. This trend is perhaps most evident in the close correspondence between pre-election surveys and the performance of presidential contenders at the polls in the 2010 elections. However, the rise of public opinion has also come to influence the process of election campaigning itself, as seen in the floating and junking of candidates, the party-switching of politicians, and the unravelling of coalitions, all developments noted by informed observers of the presidential elections of May 2010.[103-104]

Indeed, in the wider context of multiple parties and candidates for office without political platforms or programmes of any real distinction, the apparition of an opinionated public in survey after survey is worthy of note as a phenomenon in its own right. That is, aside from the specific content of any one survey, public opinion polling has emerged as an institutionalised practice in the Philippines, an established social fact. As already noted, the sheer increase in surveys is ample testimony to this reality (Chua 2004). Beyond the increasing number and frequency of surveys, moreover, there is mounting evidence of considerable media interest in and political controversy over the “reported findings” of surveys, focused on the facts and figures of specific polls, but also, importantly, on the very claims to professional objectivity and scientific method that lie at the heart of the production of public opinion for public consumption. As the accumulation and anticipation of surveys have achieved both momentum and continuous reproduction and circulation, the significance of public opinion as such thus extends well beyond the (instrumental) uses and abuses of surveys to encompass (structural) effects of a different order in Philippine politics and society. [105-106]

Beyond the focus on technical problems and solutions associated with polling, or the attempts at restricting the practice itself, the rise of “public opinion,” as a phenomenon in its own right, appears in a very different light, as do its purported effects, when viewed through the critical lens of the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, and others writing in a similar vein. As argued by Bourdieu more than thirty years ago, “public opinion” is “a pure and simple artefact whose function is to dissimulate the fact that the state of the opinion at a given moment is a system of forces, of tensions” (Bourdieu 1979). Polls and surveys, it has been argued, are thus instruments “not of political knowledge but of political action,” whose deployment inherently devalues other forms of collective action – strikes, protests, social movements – and rests on a “formally equalitarian aggregative logic” that ignores and obscures the profound realities of deprivation, poverty, and social inequality in countries such as the Philippines (Wacquant 2004; Champagne 1990). [110-111]

Viewed from this perspective, the rise of public opinion can be more readily seen to have coincided, at the outset, with the emergence of a new form of political action in the Philippines. This new political activism was directed, not merely at Marcos’ ailing dictatorship, but also, importantly, against the labour strikes, student protests and peasant movements that surfaced in the factories, the campuses, and the haciendas of the country, precisely at a time when the Communist Party of the Philippines, and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, emerged the single largest such organisation (in opposition, not in control, of state power) anywhere in the world. Long before the institutionalisation of “public opinion” through polls and surveys after the resurrection of democracy, it was this struggle for “hearts and minds” that unleashed the “will of the people” into Philippine political discourse, as seen in the high-profile campaigns to collect one million signatures on a petition for Cory Aquino to run for president in 1985, to organise as many volunteers for Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections) in 1985-86, and, finally, to oust an authoritarian regime by means of People Power in February 1986.[110-111]

At first glance, it may appear that the funeral corteges and petition drives which helped to jump-start the presidential campaigns of two generations of Aquinos, a full quarter-century apart, remain a thing apart from the rise of public opinion as political discourse. Indeed, in the case of “Cory”, the public spectacle that propelled her into popular consciousness coincided with the first appearance of the Philippines’ foremost polling institution, the Social Weather Station (SWS) in 1985 and thus pre-dated the wider circulation of public opinion as political discourse under post-Marcos conditions of democratic elections. By contrast, public opinion surveys had already become firmly established aspects of Philippine election campaigns by 2010, when Noynoy’s successful presidential candidacy was acclaimed as something of a foundational moment and unique repertoire in the rise of public opinion in the Philippines [112]

While typically associated with progress and change, and, indeed, with “new citizens-cum-voters”, “People Power,” as an – perhaps all too – familiar repertoire of protest, may also have emerged as part of the obstacles to further democratization in the Philippines.

As for the new forms of voter mobilisation themselves, the May 2010 presidential victory of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III also signals the limited transformative potential associated with the politics of “public opinion”.

Unsurprisingly, the nature of such change reflects, in key respects, broader patterns in Philippine politics, as shown above. However, the limits to the transformative potential of “public opinion” also stem from the very deployment of polls and surveys, with their formally equalitarian aggregative logic, and concomitant devaluation of other forms of collective action and solidarities. “When used as a gauge of ‘public opinion’ […] polls not only miss the mark but shift the target,” and, thus, it has been argued, “offer at best a naïve and narrow view of democracy” (Salmon and Glasser 1995: 449). In the context of the Philippines, this shifting of the target and narrowing of the view of democracy first came into its own during the widespread popular mobilisation surrounding the rise of the first Aquino presidency. With a second Aquino elected president of the country, “public opinion” may have emerged as social fact in Philippine politics and society, but for all the countless quality of life surveys and political polls conducted in the past quarter-century on a pluralistic one-person, one-vote basis, it is difficult to dismiss the charge levelled by critics that the practice of polling serves to obscure profound realities of deprivation, poverty, and social inequality in the country today. [115]

so there.  in effect the fiipino elite has managed to appropriate, co-opt, and spin “public opinion” and “people power” to serve only its interests.  political dynasties forever.   ironic, no, wicked, that it’s under cover of “freedom of expression.”

maybe we should just boycott elections, as in jose saramago’s Seeing (2007), where government held elections and nobody came.  maybe then the ruling elite will finally get the message: tama na, sobra na, palitan na ang bulok na sistema!


    • I hope and pray Risa and Dick make it to the Magic 12. My tentative list includes Angara,Grace Poe, Trillanes,Villar, Pimentel,Bro. Eddie Villanueva,Teddy Casino & Belgica. I am including Honasan, being an schoolmate at Don Bosco-Mandaluyong,for old time sake.

  1. GabbyD

    angela, parang mali ang context ng quote ni Hedman. this quote: ” “When used as a gauge of ‘public opinion’ […] polls not only miss the mark but shift the target,” and, thus, it has been argued, “offer at best a naïve and narrow view of democracy” (Salmon and Glasser 1995: 449)” seems to have been incorrectly applied.

    I have the book, and when i read what hedman wrote, my spidersense started to tingle.

    pg 449:
    …Survey research can add considerably to our knowledge of political processes. When used to simulate the outcome of an election, for example, surveys of samples of likely voters can yield interesting and usually reliable results. When used as a gauge of “public opinion”, however, polls not only miss the mark but shift the target…

    you see, glasser is talking about public opinion in terms about polling the issues. like “are u in favor of the military draft”, or “should gays get married”, etc…

    he/they is(are) NOT talking about election surveys.

    • mr macabenta has the weirdest ideas about surveys:

      ““Hindi,” insists Larry. “It’s the fault of the people for not knowing enough.”

      “No, no, no,” says Johnny. “It’s the fault of SWS for not providing enough insights.””

      Let me understand his position.

      Sabi nya, SWS is supposed to tell the respondent why they should be satisfied or disatisfied with pnoy.

      omg. bakit ka pa nagtanong, kung may sarili kang ideya na gustong ibenta sa tao?

      • also, his mathematical insight is ridiculous.

        ““Simple lang iyan,” I reply. “If your Satisfaction Rating is, say, 75%, and your Dissatisfaction Rating is 25%, then your Net Satisfaction Rating is 50%. Simple subtraction lang iyan, pare. 75 minus 25 equals 50.”

        “Pero what’s the significance of that figure? For example, if I owe you $100 and I satisfy you by paying $75, leaving a balance of $25 that you are dissatisfied with… what’s my Net Paid?

        “$75,” I say.

        “No,” says Johnny. “Based on the formula of SWS, my Net Paid is $50.””

        wow, magpacontest tayo. what wrong with this, uhm, “analysis”?

        hint: is “i owe you $100” the same as “100% of population”?

        answer: obvious, no. duh. lets put this as an apples-2-apples comparison: if u owe 100, then the share paid is 75%, the share unpaid is 25%

        now how do you measure the relative magnitudes of the share of what you paid and what u owe?

        you either subtract or divide; either method gives you a sense of relative magnitude. so, the share u paid is 3 TIMES larger (75/25=3), or the share u paid is 50% points larger.

        if this is macabenta’s version of “giving insights”, di bale na lang sir.