The Survey Everyone Should Be Looking At

UPDATE: Results of CIG April 19-23, 2010 survey
26% Teodoro, 25% Villar, 16% Aquino
Read Manila Times: "Gibo top pick for first time"

The real independent survey by the Campaigns & Image Group headed by market research veteran Abbey Canturias shows that for the period of April 1-4, 2010, this is how the election climate looks:

34% Undecided, 23% Villar, 17% Teodoro, 16% Aquino, 5% Estrada, 2% Gordon, 1% Villanueva, 2% Others

Broken down by age group:

This is more believable than other surveys that make the election look like only two candidates are running, and less than 5% are undecided. Look around. Ask around. Only 5% undecided?

Here's why there's a big difference between the results of this independent survey and the two more publicized surveys.

From Malaya, April 7, 2010:
An Internet search shows Canturias is no stranger in market research. In 1991, he, along with newspaper publishers and editors, formed the Campaigns & Image Group. Through his PR management, Canturias worked in the successful vice presidential bid of Sen. Joseph Estrada in 1992. He also was Visayas Bureau chief of The Manila Times from October 1999 to March 2001 and editor in chief of The Freeman Mindanao from August 1995 until September 1999.

The Campaigns & Image Group survey, which is given to Philippine and foreign clients, has a base of 2,550 respondents.

The result of their survey, conducted April 1 to 4, on the most likely winner in the May 10 elections has Villar, Aquino, and Teodoro in that order.

CIG explained that the "irreconcilable differences" between their findings and that of Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia "stemmed from statistical samples that are obtained in the National Capital Region and used as a random base for nationwide analysis."

From their research, CIG said they have established that "Communication strategy, messaging, and choice of media (TV and radio) win heart and minds. This observation means that: Voter response is tied to issues they hold important in their lives; audiences relate themselves to the life and experience of candidates; candidate who has leadership capability, management experience and integrity; who is perceived to be transparent, and who presents a better platform, gets higher preference; the more ads aired, the deeper messages sink in.

They also said, "Organization (logistics) wins campaigns."

They said "Preferences change over time in the run up to balloting; creating and sustaining perceptions of being ‘winnable’ are inadequate; and vote conversion drivers hold the key to victory."

On Villar, CIG said, TV’s top spender "has begun surging forward for the finish line 35 days into May 10, 2010 election day. His advantages include: a stream of nine gubernatorial defections from the ruling Lakas party; alliances with 110 congressional candidates nationwide, including 45 from the administration party; strong cooperation initiatives with two major progressive, left-leaning groups.

"Although under strain from allegations he was not the poor guy his TV ads impressed upon the public mind, he has gained a formidable ascendancy–challenged and hard-pressed on top of positive gains in the last three months from a TV and radio mileage that runs with a prime-time exposure of more than 96 minutes per day on major networks. As intensive TV advertising and word-of-mouth campaigns raise public awareness on the senator’s ascendancy and platform, the top-of-mind shares of Villar has begun to pay off into vote conversions," CIG said.

CIG also said the 60-year old Villar by far is the most prepared presidential aspirant–logistically and functionally. His central staff oversees well-coordinated, efficient, well-financed teams that touched base with NGOs, communities, corporations, and influential families across 51 million voters nationwide. Men and women on the ground use person-to-person, person-to-companies, person-to-groups, and person-to-organizations to present his platform and solicit support.

"Altogether his candidacy is expected to rake in 31% of the national vote," CIG said.

On Aquino, CIG said his slide from his high ratings late last year "had been largely attributed to widespread perception by the public about his lack of management experience and leadership capability, on the one hand, and dependence on the legacy of his parents (former president Corazon Aquino and Benigno Aquino), on the other.

Despite the slide in his acceptability ratings, he remained popular though in the National Capital Region and townships around Metro Manila where voters are known to support candidates perceived to be the "genuine opposition."

CIG said "the Aquino campaign, mobilized only late in October 2009, has been hamstrung by a weak organization and inadequate funds. It has gained little from the defections that struck the ruling party Lakas toward the end of March 2010 and is getting less lift from cash-strapped allies in 81 provinces of the country where the Liberal Party fielded "token" candidates."

"The outpouring of respect and sense of loss (that was felt nationwide during the funeral procession for his mother emerged) has soon died out; it cannot sustain the emotional hype upon which his presidential draft was set," the survey group said.

CIG, which caters to the business community, said, the good-versus-evil messaging Aquino had used against opponents, has apparently produced a strong adverse reaction.

"Voters in the industrial sector had expected him to avoid mudslinging and present a decent, high-level, platform-oriented campaign. For most of them he sounded ‘vindictive’ and crying out for revenge for the scorn President Arroyo has had shown against his mother," CIG said.

On Teodoro, CIG said: "As the predominantly Roman Catholic nation went into the Lent holidays, it was already certain for Teodoro that the party has been weakened by kinks in leadership and organizational structures. Advisers feared that the party may lose the capability to undertake an effective campaign and to promote his candidacy. He has to beat the clock in rousing the public’s passion for him and sustain that passion and interest at a financial cost only Mrs. Arroyo can fully provide. His decision to step down from the chair triggered a wake of resignations from other party bigwigs and more defections to the opposition Nacionalista Party.

Whether he will be able to recover quickly remains a subject of speculation, CIG said adding that his consolation is that "his initiatives in university and college professors and students had paid huge electoral premiums."

As to the former president, CIG said, "As election day nears, Estrada finds himself losing grasp of the finances and organization he needed for yet another forceful comeback to the Philippine presidency."

So, how much stock should voters put on surveys?


This analysis from the Manila Times explains why:
Do the SWS poll forecasts reflect the true election results? Do they sound credible enough? For instance, will you believe that Teodoro, with the administration’s much-vaunted political machine behind him, can generate only 2,400,000 votes?

Do you think that Bro. Villanueva, backed by the JIL, which is reputed to have millions of members, can woo just 800,000 voters? Aside from his own religious group, he is expected to win votes in other areas all over the country.

In the senatorial race, do you really expect Sen. Lito Lapid’s reelection, being No. 10 in the poll surveys and topping former Sen. Serge Osmena? Lapid has sat out his six-year term in the Senate, producing only one bill approved into law. He has been dubbed by many as the “chair of the Senate committee on silence.”

The polling agencies are facing an acid test in this year’s election. If their findings are turned on their head by the actual election results, they may not only lose face but may also run out of business in future elections for loss of credibility.

During the current election campaign, the polling firms have been excoriated for influencing voters and trend setting. There were strident proposals to ban the publication of poll surveys because they tend to create a bandwagon effect on voters to pick candidates leading in the poll surveys.

Many candidates see the polling agencies as election oracles, and think they are a shoo-in for the positions they are seeking, seeing their names topping the poll forecasts. But pollsters had made glaring misses in their predictions of election winners in the past.

In the US, leading polling firms had wrongly predicted the victory of Republican candidates Alf Landon and Thomas E. Dewey in the 1936 and 1948 presidential elections, respectively. The cause of these disasters in opinion polling was attributed to biased sampling of respondents.

Closer to home, one polling agency committed a grievous error by predicting in the 2004 election that presidential candidate Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would trounce opposition standard bearer Fernando Poe Jr. in Metro Manila. It turned out to be a reverse, with FPJ outvoting GMA three to one in the region.

In the 2007 election, administration candidate Ralph Recto for the Senate was forecast to win. He lost miserably, with the opposition candidates romping off with most of the 12 contested Senate seats.

I really don’t believe in the surveys, rationalizing that the opinion of 1,500 or 2,000 respondents interviewed for their preferred candidates could not reflect that of the entire voting population of 40 million. This is the biggest extrapolation that I know of.

If the polling firms had made big hits in their findings in the past, it was because their projected leading candidates in the surveys were followed by voters, believing the predictions to be the trend of the election.

Poll surveys have discouraged or dismayed candidates who are not faring well, most especially the cellar-dwellers. Senator Roxas, who was formerly running as the LP standard-bearer, was said to have decided to slide down as vice presidential candidate, giving way to Noynoy to be the party’s presidential bet, because he was not performing well in the surveys.

Teodoro, the fourth placer among the presidential contenders in the surveys, said he had stopped following the surveys. “I don’t pay attention to surveys anymore. Whether I have gone up or gone down, it’s nothing to me. Our campaign is based on our party network and party strengths,” he said.

Former President Fidel Ramos has exhorted candidates, especially the tail-enders. He told Teodoro: “Just be sure you be your own man and stick to your own strategic issues, directions and plans for the well-being of our people and security of our country.”

I admire Ronald Holmes, president and managing fellow of Pulse Asia, another major polling agency, for being candid and cautioning the public against taking surveys as gospel truth.

He said that Pulse Asia, whose surveys are done independently and not commissioned by any candidate or politician, conducts polls as part of the democratic process.

He defined two types of voters—a “sincere voter” who votes for someone whom he, or she believes in, and a “strategic voter” who is either influenced or swayed by the bandwagon effect of the surveys. He urged voters to go for someone they believe in despite the fact that they are trailing in the surveys.

That was a mouthful, coming from no less than a straight-out executive of a polling firm. Now, you define yourself: Are you a “sincere voter” or a “strategic voter”?