FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

There is a virus infecting our political culture as well. When it strikes, it causes mental impairment.

Whenever an opinion survey is released, those whose numbers are most unimpressive attack the messenger. When OCTA Research released its voter preference poll earlier this week, a bunch of congressmen called for an inquiry into the outfit. The premise for any such inquiry is that the numbers given us are somehow politically motivated.

A congressional hearing is not the way to do this. It is like asking a panel of morons to interrogate Albert Einstein.

The congressmen are not exactly experts on statistical methods. They are experts in political acoustics.

In all of science, any proposition is to be reviewed only by peers.

Any scientific inquiry is ethically required to disclose its methodology. It is that methodology that is reviewed by peers – not the outcomes of applying the methodology. Certainly not the interpretation drawn from the same pile of data.

When anyone releases the results of a survey, it is presumed its methodology is adequate. If it refuses to disclose its methodology, it cannot possibly be credible.

Any survey outfit thrives on accuracy. No firm can have a monopoly of statistical methods. Credibility is based on accuracy alone.

Therefore, to accuse a survey firm of manipulating the results is absurd. There is no point in undertaking a costly survey only to distort the outcomes. There are other ways of conducting propaganda without submitting to scientific review.

One particularly dull congressman from Quezon City, among those behind the call for a probe, says he wants “clarity.” All he has to do is a bit more reading. There is really no sense in using precious congressional time and resources for the benefit of his “clarity.”

The statistical science behind random sampling is pretty plain. The limitations of the methodology are plain as well. This is why there is a margin of error in the reported results to account for the limits of random sampling.

Still ahead

The latest OCTA survey confirms what the Pulse Asia survey indicated earlier. In fact, the numbers are nearly identical.

This latest survey shows Sara Duterte is still way ahead of her potential rivals in the presidential race. If elections were held during the survey period (July 12 to 18), Sara will corner 28 percent of the vote. Her highest concentration of voters continues to be Mindanao, where she garnered 59 percent support.

Running a far second is Bongbong Marcos with a 13 percent share. Not far behind him is Isko Moreno Domagoso with 11 percent of the vote. Grace Poe and Manny Pacquiao follow with 10 percent shares respectively.

Leni Robredo’s share dropped to 5 percent. She is tied at that level with Alan Cayetano and Bong Go. The latter two are non-starters.

If it is any consolation to Leni supporters, her 5 percent OCTA rating is within the margin of error of the 6 percent she posted in the last Pulse Asia survey. That is the upside. The downside is that she is stagnant. Her gimmick of issuing flimsy second opinions on the administration’s performance is not winning her any votes.

The immense lead Sara enjoys in voter preference surveys (even if she has not declared intention to run) is drawing the political forces around her. Sen. Win Gatchalian, for instance, declared he wants to seek the vice presidency but only if Sara Duterte picks him as running mate. Gatchalian is a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the party of declared vice presidential aspirant Tito Sotto.

As in the Pulse Asia survey, Rodrigo Duterte wins 18 percent share of voter preference for vice president. Isko Moreno Domagoso follows with an 11 percent share, statistically tied with Grace Poe and Alan Cayetano with 10 percent respectively. Bongbong Marcos received a 9 percent share.


It is not only Leni who appears stagnating in place.

The OCTA survey gives Tito Sotto a 3 percent share of voter preference even as he and Ping Lacson had virtually declared their candidacies. His standard-bearer Ping Lacson received only 2 percent presidential voter preference.

Unlike Leni, who appears to quibble to the end, the Lacson-Sotto tandem moved more decisively, announcing early last month they were seeking the presidency and the vice presidency. They have barnstormed a few provinces and had planned a political convention of sorts, postponed by the heightening of quarantine restrictions.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the early declaration should have produced some first-mover advantages for this tandem. At the very least, they could have tapped into the inherently bi-factional nature of our local politics to gather some support from powerbrokers in the districts and provinces. This does not seem to be happening. The local powerbrokers appear to be hesitating, waiting for Sara to make her move.

The only thing that happened, as far as this tandem is concerned, is the decision of Reporma party to adopt Lacson as its chairman. But Reporma is but a shell of a party with only the recently relocated Bebot Alvarez imagining it to be a major political force.

There might be something out there that could sweep our voters off their feet, create a new electoral momentum and alter the drift indicated by the voter preference polls. Whatever that might be, it seems the conventional politicians have yet failed to grasp it.

Given all the abnormalities of the pandemic situation, it will be a challenge to enlarge the space for electoral politics in the minds of our citizens. What the surveys tell us, between the lines, is that our voters are not inclined to experimentation at this time, sticking with the generally familiar.

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