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Surveys as the Basis for the Next President

by Zarelle Glen Dorothy A. Villanzana | February 22, 2022

As the elections are nearing, public opinion has never been more important as citizens seek to determine whose hands they will fall into for the next six years. With surveys as big as Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS), to smaller ones as those done in Facebook reaction posts, can we really predict the outcome of this upcoming election? More so, do these surveys actually affect a person’s choice of candidate?

In the Pulse Asia survey conducted from January 19-24, 2022, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. has the commanding lead with 60% of the respondents preferring him, while Vice–President Leni Robredo trails second with 16%. Senator Panfilo Lacson says, “It is different on the ground,” as the survey shows that he appeals only to 4% of the likely election voters. Meanwhile, Manila mayor Isko Moreno and Senator Manny Pacquiao are tied with 8%.

Comparatively, in the SWS survey conducted from January 28-31, Marcos leads with 50% and Robredo follows after with 19%. The percentages may have slightly changed, but with the gaps still so huge, might these numbers be clear indications of who will take the next presidential seat?

How Accurate Are These Surveys?

The question of accuracy may be answered by first knowing the system of a survey. First, the questionnaires and surveys are designed, then the appropriate sample size is figured out (usually it is 1,200 people, but it may be increased to lessen the margin of error). Next, they conduct the survey, process and analyze the data, and lastly, tell the results to the public. It is necessary that these surveys choose respondents with the chance method to roughly represent a proportion of the population. If not, there would be a chance of error. Other than sampling errors, there are also non-sampling errors in polling to be dealt with, which include the responder’s truthfulness, the complexity of the questions, interviewer influences, respondent’s defect in information retention, errors in data collection methods, and survey setting.

An example of a political survey error was back in 2016, in the United States, when Hillary Clinton was forecasted to win by 77% to even as high as 99%, only for former President Donald Trump to gain the position. The error here was a systematic overestimation in the state polls, where the state-level responders most likely didn’t represent the voting population by not showing up to cast their votes or ended up voting for a different candidate.

The Tide May Still Turn

Since the question being asked by the Pulse Asia survey is “If elections were held today, who would you vote for?” and not “On Election Day, who would you vote for?”, many voters would still have time to make up their mind on their final choice of candidate by May, with the reasons possibly being: persuasion by other supporters, an issue shedding light on the candidate’s behavior, or even being moved by a campaign advertisement.  

The elections are still months away, and many things might happen yet, so truly, nobody could be certain of anything. Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokesperson, said in a statement on February 13 that the survey was “too early to capture the impact of the game-changing interviews with GMA, DZRH, and other media outfits.” To put this further, back in 2015, the leading candidates from September to October were Vice–President Jojo Binay and Senator Grace Poe, but then, gradually, President Duterte ended up with the seat in office in 2016. 

These pre-election surveys only show the preferences of the citizens at the given moment, but surely, many events are yet to truly determine their candidate bets. Hopefully, it will be someone worthy to lead the country of a hundred and ten million people who will take the seat after the current administration ends.

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