Folly of surveys
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - August 3, 2016 - 12:00am

Unless it is to make money for themselves, it is sometimes very difficult to fathom what survey companies hope to accomplish with some of their surveys. And sometimes, too, the news media help these survey companies obscure their real intent by either not reporting on surveys completely or not helping to clarify what the surveys are truly about.

Take the case of the latest Pulse Asia survey, conducted between July 2-8 and released August 1. In the survey, only 37 percent of respondents agree with the proposal to amend the Constitution in order to, among other things, shift to a federal form of government. More respondents - 44 percent - do not agree with the proposal to amend the charter.

But that is not the intriguing part. The intriguing part is that a whopping 73 percent of the respondents in the Pulse Asia face-to-face survey admit they have little or no knowledge at all about the Philippine Constitution. I do not know about you, but to me, to have little or no knowledge about the Constitution invalidates your answer, regardless of whether you are for or against amending the Constitution.

How can a pro or anti answer to a question regarding amendments to the Constitution make any sense if you know nothing about the Constitution? And when your answer does not make any sense, then the survey results built from such answers do not make any sense as well. And when the survey results do not make any sense, what is the sense of publishing them?

Adding to the senselessness of it all is the fact that the news media appear to have deliberately glossed over the senselessness. In the two national dailies I read that published the survey results, no mention was made at all of the 73 percent of respondents who said they knew little or nothing about the Constitution. Both newspapers focused only on those who agreed or disagreed with the charter change proposal.

Again I do not know about you, but to me that was very irresponsible of the news media to have omitted such a crucial qualifier to the survey results. And as a news person myself, I not only find that odd, I in fact find that very disturbing. How can 73 percent of respondents saying they have little or no knowledge about the Constitution be completely missed or ignored when it was practically screaming for attention – more loudly than the 44 percent anti or 37 percent pro ever could.

And yet this is not the first time senseless surveys have made it to the news, with news organizations playing merrily along and not knowing any better. Take the last one prior to this Pulse Asia charter change survey. On June 10, or a month after the May 9 presidential election, the Social Weather Stations released a pre-election survey taken between May 1 to 3 about the trust ratings of the then presidential candidates.

In the first place, why would SWS embark on a survey about trust so close to the election when it knows nothing can beat the results of the election as the ultimate measure of public trust in any given candidate? Secondly, why did SWS proceed with such a survey when it knew it can only release the results long after the elections shall have been over, thereby making the results of its survey irrelevant?

And then, just as confusingly, the news organizations dutifully published the results, not as some below-the-fold human interest story but as the banner story for the day. Wow, how the headlines screamed about Duterte getting a lower trust rating (I am not reprinting the results because they are, as I said, irrelevant) while Leni Robredo got a higher trust rating.

The election results not only completely reversed the survey findings and made them irrelevant, they exposed what some people who conducted the survey and published the results are probably up to. In sum, there are surveys that are completely out of whack and a total waste, and there are surveys that are subtly crafted to pursue an agenda, with willing help from a coopted media.

jerrytundag@yahoo.com.

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