OFFLINE: Misleading the gullible

Did you know that the word ‘gullible’ is not found in the dictionary?

Most of you will say, of course not! But some will look for a dictionary just in case I’m right.

I’m wrong, of course. But even intelligent people would have bothered to check…just in case.

This may or may not be true where surveys are concerned. After all, such survey companies like Pulse Asia and the Social Weather Stations have been around for decades, and claim that they use the most scientific of methodologies, even giving a plus or minus margin of error.

This is true under normal circumstances.

Unfortunately, these are not the most normal of circumstances, and SWS and Pulse Asia are still private corporations which exist to generate profits year after year. It’s what their stockholders demand, and usually get.

So can presidential surveys conducted by the two be trusted?

The answer is yes and no. Another way of putting it is, it’s complicated.

During the six-year reign of Rodrigo Duterte as president, both companies came out with surveys showing the incredible, if not outright impossible.

Many surveys said that Mr. Duterte was the most popular, most trusted president the country has ever had. More popular than the likes of Pnoy Aquino, Erap Estrada and Fidel Ramos, at their peak. More popular than even Cory Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos at the height of their presidencies.

There were survey results from SWS and Pulse Asia – forget the smaller pretenders who were always in it solely for the money since they began operations – showing Mr. Duterte with a higher than 90 percent popularity rating.

BS? Absolutely.

So why did the two previously respected companies risk their once sterling reputations to produce results that few took seriously?

They were handsomely paid, of course. And yes, they could show some proof to support their results. But they also kept some very important facts hidden.

Some of those facts have recently come to light, not the least of which is that the party, company, or organization availing of their services assign their own people to conduct the field surveys. This alone all but guarantees that survey results will be skewed in favor of their client.

Also, the client not only chooses the people doing field surveys, they also have a hand in the questions to be asked.

This was not the case in the past, when two of the newspapers I worked for – BusinessWorld and Manila Standard — had surveys conducted that were totally, completely, and absolutely fair.

It goes without saying that this has not been the case in the last six years and is still not the case where the surveys showing Ferdinand Marcos Jr as the sure winner in next month’s elections.

The guy’s camp paid for the surveys, and had their own people conducting field interviews. More than this, those surveyors made it clear to the surveyed that they were for Mr. Marcos.

Real fair, huh?

But there’s more. It turns out that both SWS and Pulse Asia did not follow the accepted methodology of surveying a universe that represents the voting population.

This means that the 2,000 people they interviewed should represent the entire population in terms of gender, economic status, and location, among others.

It was in economic status – the smallest percentage being the A market of rich or at least well off Filipinos, the B market that represents the middle class, the C market of those who sometimes struggle to make ends meet, and the D (poor) and E (very poor).

By their own admission, this was not followed.

And here lies the rub. The A market may be small at roughly one percent of the population, but they almost always vote in large numbers. In comparison, the E market may be huge, but a good number of them don’t even bother to vote.

Further, the 2,000 universe of today is less than half of the former 5,000 respondents that the two firms used to survey in the past.

There is also something very suspicious about the dates that survey results are released. Most of the time, they come out with impossible results a day or two after Leni Robredo holds one of her massive rallies, the likes of which the Marcos camp has not been able to match, even with attendees paid P500 (that’s about $10) to show up.

Side by side with the improbable results are the photos of Leni vs Marcos Jr. rallies. The latter camp openly allows shot to be taken by drones to show how massive her support is, while the latter has banned all drones from their sad rallies.

I say sad because attendees at the Marcos Jr. rallies have been shown exiting the grounds where they are held, even before the son of the dictator has given his repetitive ‘Unity’ spiel.

Even in the early stages of the campaign period, Marcos Jr has proven to be a bland draw. Few want to attend his rallies unless there’s something in it for them.

In comparison, Robredo rallies are always festive occasions where just about everybody wants to give something and not receive anything. I daresay there’s almost an Edsa 1 vibe to the Leni rallies, where people smile and greet each other, even total strangers.

The worst comparison are the Marcos Jr. rallies when there have been cases of pickpockets making hay.

Finally, the photos from the camp of Marcos Jr. have been found to be doctored on several occasions. They have been photoshopped to make it appear that their meager crowds are actually massive.

In one case, a field of onions was used to show a big crowd. And in more than a couple of instances, crowd photos of foreign countries were passed off as pro-Marcos crowds.

But going back to the surveys, there is one global organization that has predicted a Robredo win, and it has not been wrong in the past several decades, even saying Donald Trump would beat Hillary Clinton when most surveys said the former First Lady was the sure bet.

Google Trends uses its own methodologies and has said in no uncertain terms that the current vice president will become president in a few weeks’ time.

Two other local market research companies which plot consumer trends have said pretty much the same thing.

Unless there is massive cheating – and there are early indications that the Marcos camp is desperate enough to resort to every dirty trick in the book – Leni Robredo will be the next president of the Republic of the Philippines.