Perception vs. Reality



The latest Pulse Asia survey on the 2022 national elections released last February 13 showed 60% of the respondents favoring Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.


Still in second was Vice President Leni Robredo.


Some pro-Marcos ardent supporters have already precipitously declared that the presidential election is over, that the Marcoses have redeemed themselves and have made a mockery of the spirit of EDSA.


TV host Toni Gonzaga, back in February 8, proclaimed, “Tapos na. May panalo na. Tapos na ang laban.” (It’s over. He has won. The fight is over).


Someone posted on Facebook that Sandro Marcos, son of Bongbong and running for representative of the 1st District of Ilocos Norte, supposedly said in response to his father’s avoiding media interviews, “My father can win this election without campaigning. The same goes with me and any MARCOS who are running for elective positions this 2022 election.” What arrogance, if the statement is true.


But, wait a minute. As my parents used to say, “Don’t count your chicks before they are hatched.”


In 2016, then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was consistently projected in the U.S. media to beat Donald Trump soundly. Opinion polls had her as a heavy favorite. Her chance of winning was put at 70% by almost all pollsters.


But as history has shown, many of the pollsters were wrong to the surprise of many. Donald Trump won the presidency.


Polls are not absolute. Pollsters make mistakes. In the case of the U.S. 2016 presidential election, there was apparently a disconnect between the polls and the true sentiments of the people.


As Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen says, “Those who responded to small sample for poll surveys are not the sovereign. Otherwise, the Constitution should have delegated the sovereign prerogative to choose leaders to POLLING companies, not elections. It did not.”


The same thing can happen to Bongbong despite his lead in the recent Pulse Asia survey because there is a groundswell of support by Filipinos for Leni Robredo who are not reached by pollsters.


I am not an expert on political polling, but there are certain questions that bother me as I try to understand the latest survey results, with a sample of only 2,400 respondents out of 67.5 million registered voters.


These questions are: (1) Could Pulse Asia be overstating Bongbong’s support? (2) Why was the polling conducted too early when the campaign season has not even begun yet? (3) Who were the people polled? Were they registered voters or not? (4) What questions were asked and how were they formulated? (5) How was under-representation or over-representation of particular demographics avoided?


The answer – or lack of answers – to these questions can make or break the validity of any survey.


When interviewed by Karen Davila of Headstart, Professor Ana Maria Tabunda, Pulse Asia Research Director, explained that voter preference for Robredo has already reached a “ceiling.” Simply put, Robredo would never be able to overcome Bongbong’s lead and people will never change their opinion even if exposed to the truth.


What is being projected by Tabunda, whether consciously or unconsciously, is that there is already a leading candidate that will eventually remain victorious.


This is the reason why I asked the question: Is Pulse Asia overstating Bongbong’s support? Pulse Asia could be conditioning the minds of the people since polls, as everybody knows, have psychological effects on voters.


A little over a week after the beginning of the campaign on February 8, Robredo has already gotten the endorsements of the Makabayan bloc, more than 500 lay Catholic leaders of various organizations, 160 top economists that include five ex-NEDA chiefs, 42 retired career diplomats, ex-military chiefs, LGBTQIA groups, two rival student political parties in the University of the Philippines, educators, artists, lawyers, priests, nuns, labor leaders, and many more sectoral organizations.


The Robredo campaign is manned worldwide on a volunteer basis. No one is being paid. In Seattle, I was a witness last week to a caravan supporting Robredo. It was sponsored by Filipinos on their own initiative.


Robredo’s support is for real. Many pollsters will be in for a big surprise in the coming weeks.


Survey results are snapshots of what people are thinking or opining at a particular moment in time. And, opinions will change as the spread of misinformation by paid trolls of Marcos is exposed and the army of Robredo’s volunteers turns their volunteerism into a truly “people’s campaign” never before seen in Philippine politics.