Can surveys predict election victory?

The quick and sure, if evasive, answer to this trick question is “Maybe, but then…”. And we say it’s a trick because it could be a sneaky way to bring out his political biases.

Voters elated by gigantic turnouts at rallies of their favorite candidates are often suppressed by reminders that elections are not won on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or TikTok in cyberspace but on the ground and ultimately at polling stations.

But then national elections are also not won in preferential polls where a small sample of 2,400 faceless respondents are tricked into speaking on behalf of some 65,000,000 adult Filipinos who are expected to vote on May 9 in more than 105,000 constituencies scattered throughout the archipelago.

Pulse Asia this week released the results of its January 19-24 presidential preference survey showing former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the frontrunner with 60%, followed by Vice President Leni Robredo (16%), Senator Manny Pacquiao and the Mayor. Isko Moreno Domagoso (8% each) and Senator Ping Lacson (4%). Our apologies for not naming the other candidates at the bottom of the list.

These surveys are usually conducted as part of ongoing research or commissioned by a paying customer. Parties that buy or commission a survey sometimes want to systematically collect data to help them plan or monitor a program, such as an election campaign.

A commissioned survey is normally for the exclusive use of the client or client. If its findings are leaked to a much wider crowd of third parties, they could sway public opinion, intentionally or unintentionally.

During an election campaign, customer-friendly survey results could have ripple effects if made public, making instant scores not only self-serving but also potentially self-fulfilling.

We are not saying that Pulse Asia published the survey results to create such an influential effect on the public, especially voters, or to condition them to later accept any suspicious election results.

The survey results show an impressive start from Marcos. If he maintains his lead and wins, he would stand out as a post-1986 president elected not by the usual majority but by a clear majority.

In the previous survey also conducted by Pulse Asia last December 1-6, Marcos was already No. 1 with 53%, followed by Robredo with 20%. In January, he improved his numbers.

Can Marcos maintain or grow his survey score? Can any of his rivals overtake him? Anything can happen, including his eventual downfall, in the 82 days before Election Day. One need only look back to the recent past to see this possibility.

In the December 2015 preference survey, then-mayor Rodrigo Duterte was No. 4 at 20%. Senator Grace Poe and then-Vice President Jojo Binay shared the top spot with 26% each. But when the votes were cast and tallied, Duterte emerged victorious. He beat the early favorites.

Then, in the 2016 election, Marcos was No. 1 in the survey among vice-presidential candidates, with Robredo as No. 2. But Marcos ultimately lost to Robredo, and his protest was dismissed at the unanimity after five years by the Supreme Court sitting. than the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

The favorable results of the last preferential survey can help Marcos stay ahead because people normally want to identify with the potential winner. We will rarely insist on betting on a loser.

To some extent, the self-fulfilling effect of the release of favorable results hints at an answer to the question: can polls predict (or even spell) an election victory?

Analysts dig into the details of the investigation

How did Marcos manage to get a 60% share in the latest Pulse Asia survey? Some political analysts shared their views in a summary for ABS-CBN News.

Tony La Viña, former dean of the Ateneo School of Government, said, “Marcos’ popularity can be attributed to what his campaign managed to project relative to other candidates.

“It’s not even about winning the (historical) revisionism of Marcos. It is the failure of other campaigns to articulate a better future under their umbrella. These are the people who see Marcos as offering a better future.

“He earned a reputation as a man who could change the Philippines, just like Rodrigo Duterte in 2016, Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III in 2010, Joseph Estrada in 1998, and actor Fernando Poe Jr. when he nearly beat President Gloria M. Arroyo in 2004.

Steve Michael Medina Moore Jr., Marketing Expert and Admissions Outreach Manager at De La Salle College in Saint Benilde: “Marcos’ vlogs have helped endear him to Filipinos as a ‘regular guy’ who likes the same things than them.

“Kung titingnan mo ‘yung vlogs niya, may times wala siyang pinag-uusapan. Hindi niya dini-discuss yung niya platforms. Sometimes he talks about the usual things that are kind of normal in the world, and even in vlogs.

“It’s very normal, it’s very light and somehow we can understand that. Na someone like him, a Bongbong Marcos, kilala sa pulitika, kilala sa buong Pilipinas, normal din pala and ganoon ang mga ginagawa.

Jayeel Cornelio, director of the development studies program at Ateneo de Manila University, said Marcos presented himself as a man capable of bringing about great change in the country: “He is a messiah, because the original messiah was murdered, was crucified. And now you have a new messiah coming back to life and he’s going to do everything that the first messiah failed to do.

He said it was part of a Christian narrative familiar to Filipinos: “In a nutshell, he’s going to take us back to the good old days when his father once ruled the Philippines, the golden age.”

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NB: All Postscripts are also archived on The author is on Twitter as @FDPascual. E-mail: [email protected]

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