In this electoral fever, beware of biased polls

(Note: this is the Chronicle of the Service of the Republic of September 30, 2021 which should have been published in place of an earlier article. Ric Saludo regrets the bad publication resulting from a technical error.)

Recently there have been headlines on the Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll asking 1,200 randomly selected respondents, statistically representing over 70 million Filipinos of voting age, about President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to run for office. the vice presidency in the May 2022 election. Unfortunately, that was a flawed poll.

As SWS has done with other polls in recent years, it makes two questionable actions in the poll released this week. First, it asks respondents for their views on an issue – the intention of the 1987 Constitution regarding the presidential candidate for another national office – on which they sorely lack information and expertise to make a competent judgment. .

Asking the general public if a sitting president running for vice-president would violate the Constitution’s intent would be like surveying people without medical expertise, which is most effective in preventing coronavirus disease 2019 – vaccines using inactivated virus , injections with spike proteins carried by animal cells or doses of messenger RNA or mRNA for the body’s cells to produce spike proteins.

Even law graduates would have a hard time guessing the intent of the Constitution, which only its drafters are likely to know with some skill, just as most physicians who have never followed immunology may not be able to. say with certainty which of the three vaccination technologies would work best. Ordinary people would be even less qualified to form an informed and competent opinion on these matters.

Therefore, whatever the results of the investigation, they do not have any weight in the resolution of the legal or medical problem questioned.

When two problems are worse than one

SWS advocates will argue that public opinion on any issue has value in showing dominant views, even if those views are wrong. Fair enough. But this is where the second and more disturbing SWS investigative manipulation comes in.

If the purpose of the SWS poll is to assess how people perceive the constitutionality of President Duterte’s running for vice-president, why combine this concern with another question: support for his government?

This is exactly the dubious double take SWS took when asking respondents, “Which is closer to your opinion -” The PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) is expected to run for vice president in 2022 because that I like that its governance continues ”or“ The proposal that the PRRD should run for vice-presidency in 2022 violates the intention of the Constitution? “

The correct way to assess these disparate problems is to ask two questions, both worded the way SWS has conducted countless other surveys: read a statement to the respondent and ask if they strongly agree with it. , somewhat agree with, somewhat disagree with, strongly disagree with or is undecided about the opinion expressed.

Combining the two into one question has three distorting effects on the survey process and its results.

First, it can confuse and overburden respondents on what exactly they are supposed to give an opinion on: President Duterte’s rule or the constitutional intent regarding presidents running for vice-president.

Second, the respondent’s perspective on one question can influence how they think about the other question.

This same thing happened in another of SWS ‘dubious surveys, one it carried out year after year from 2006 to 2010, asking respondents if they were in favor of the constitutional amendments that “President Gloria Arroyo wants” .

Obviously, the level of public support for her would affect the response to the Charter Change (Cha-cha) question. Those who are satisfied with its governance tended to answer yes. The dissatisfied said no.

It is then not certain whether the respondent’s response showed the favor or the disfavour of President Arroyo or of Cha-cha.

Despite this crucial ambiguity in interpreting the results, SWS and the media continued to report that most Filipinos oppose Cha-cha – a distorted reading and process that SWS leader Mahar Mangahas firmly and repeatedly defended in his column.

Never mind that a competently and unconfused Pulse Asia poll on constitutional amendment produced very different results, with 58% of respondents either supporting or open to charter change.

Trash twisted interpretations

As seen in reports from the SWS survey this week, the results of the double-question poll were interpreted as covering only one issue: constitutionality.

A leading newspaper headlined: “Majority of Filipinos say Duterte VP’s candidacy violates the Constitution. “

Unfortunately, many media would not bother to criticize SWS for its distortion and gross biases, or would correctly report the results as difficult to properly interpret, and the process as confusing and potentially manipulative.

So, for readers who want to get a true picture of public opinion, especially from SWS polls, be sure to check out what the survey questions are and whether they are likely to skew the answers and results for one. particular political agenda.

If one sees double-edged questions like the one about President Duterte’s candidacy for vice-president, think about the case. Or better yet: ignore and delete the poll.


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Sandra J. Lacey

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