Do you agree, or disagree that Aquino must disclose his psychological records?

I’ll make a bet with Social Weather Stations president Mahar Mangahas with my year’s fee as a columnist that more than 79 percent will answer, “I agree,” to that question above.

More than 70 percent will also say ‘agree’ to the following questions:

“Do you agree, or disagree that Senator Trillanes shouldn’t use the Senate for politicking or to bring down the image of the frontrunner in the 2016 elections?”

“Do you agree or disagree that the SWS, when it publishes its polls, should disclose who asked for such polls, and how much it was paid for the service?”

All the above questions are formed in exactly the same mold of questions the SWS used for its recent survey: “Do you agree or disagree with the proposal of some Senators that Vice-Pres. Jojo Binay should appear in the Senate to answer all allegations against him?”

Of course the majority would agree. That SWS question and the four above are loaded questions, containing what more professional pollsters would term “response biases,” which would almost automatically elicit the “I agree” response. Who wouldn’t want any official to answer “allegations”?

I’m surprised why the SWS didn’t get a 98 percent “agree” response. But that would show how ridiculous its poll on Binay-must-appear-in-the-Senate was.

The SWS, as it had been in the case of Chief Justice Renato Corona in the impeachment trial, is helping, for a fee of course, push Binay to the same trap in which Corona fell.

The SWS poll question, like many of its political opinion surveys, is flawed for several reasons.

Déjà-vu20141022
Déjà vu, or same old modus operandi? Similar numbers even?

First, it disregards the phenomenon that many of its respondents, particularly the C-D-E classes, may not have sufficient information on the issue. A classic flawed question would be asking a poor Filipino who doesn’t read newspapers if he agrees to the enactment of the “Reproductive Health bill,” without explaining what the hell that is. He most probably would reply, “I agree” as soon as he hears the term kalusugan.

Believe it or not, the biggest-circulation newspaper is read only by 4 percent of the population, according to a recent rigorous study on media I’ve been shown. Most of the C-D-E class, I would bet, aren’t aware of the allegations about the Makati building and the Batangas estate. Did SWS first ask—as it should have—if the respondents were aware of these allegations?

Were the respondents aware, as most of us in the AB class know, that Senators Antonio Trillanes and Alan Cayetano are conducting the investigations against Binay not in aid of legislation but as a demolition job against the frontrunner in the 2016 presidential elections? SWS would come up with a survey finding that Binay shouldn’t attend the hearing if it, instead, asked the following questions:

“Many think that a Senate committee is being used to besmirch Binay’s reputation by making undocumented accusations. Do you agree or disagree that Binay should attend these hearings, anyway?”

Second, the SWS’ question has a very loaded term “allegations,” which was translated in the query’s Pilipino version to “paratang.” Who wouldn’t’ want an official to answer “mga paratang” and by “some senators” – especially when the masses still probably think that the senators now are of the same calibre and integrity as Senators Diokno, Tanada, Recto of the 1960s. Again, a different formulation of the SWS question would have results showing that Binay shouldn’t attend the hearings:

• “Do you agree or disagree that the Vice President should not subject himself to grilling and humiliation in the Senate by Senator Trillanes, who has already concluded that he is guilty of unexplained wealth, and publicly announced that he wants Binay thrown in jail?”

• “Do you agree or disagree that the Vice President should appear in Senate hearings in which Trillanes’ dubious witnesses would humiliate him in front of nationwide TV?”

• “Do you agree or disagree that the Senate has become a tool for Aquino to politically demolish the opposition?

This SWS tack of portraying that the nation wants Binay to attend the Senate hearing isn’t new. Something like this was done before—in March 2012. And the figures involved make me very, very suspicious.

SWS yesterday reported that 79 percent of its respondents want Binay to testify in the Senate. In March 29, 2012, two months before the May 29 decision, SWS also reported that the majority wanted Corona to testify in the Senate. Guess exactly how many? 73 percent. With Corona’s disastrous performance in the Senate, Aquino’s gang obviously, stupidly thought they could do a Corona Part II.

As I explained in my column on Monday, the SWS, as well as its competitor, Pulse Asia, have become Aquino’s propaganda accomplices in all his campaigns to remove from office or jail his opponents.

Aquino’s playbook is to leak to a major newspaper materials alleging corruption committed by the target or targets. On cue, these would trigger the Senate to conduct investigations. The newspaper then sensationalizes the investigations and other newspapers join the fray.

The SWS and Pulse Asia then come in to exploit the widespread misconception over the nature of polls—that the outcome is “objective” truth—to further portray the target as indubitably corrupt. But the two polling firms actually can only capture a snapshot of public opinion, which, however, had been formed by the screaming headlines of media.

I have been aghast at how the SWS had become such a potent propaganda tool wielded effectively by the Aquino Administration.

Its worst participation had been during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, and I wonder how the SWS people can sleep at night with the injustice they contributed to, and their participation in the lynch mob that damaged our constitutional system of checks and balances.

At the height of the impeachment trial in the two months before the May 29 conviction, the SWS barraged us with not one but three surveys:

• 29 March 2012: “53 percent satisfied with the action of the House of Representatives to impeach Corona”

• 30 March 2012: “73 percent prefer Corona conviction”

• 26 April 2012: “63 percent believe Corona has hidden wealth”

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla and the other senators probably would have jumped for joy reading the SWS polls. The SWS polls gave them the perfect cover to convict Corona, even if they voted so because of the P100 million given them as bribe from the Disbursement Acceleration Fund.

I was told by my sources that the SWS actually did another survey from May 24 to 27, which was designed to be the coup d’ grace, as it would show that 72 percent thought not only Corona guilty, but that even his wife should be indicted.

It turned out that the senators were so eager to finish the trial to get their hands on the P100 million DAP funds that they made their decision on May 29.

Using the SWS, of course, as a propaganda tool is expensive, which indicates that this Administration has accumulated a huge war chest for the 2016 contest. A poll purportedly of 1,500 respondents would cost P2.5 million.

One trick of pollsters, also done by many NGOs, is to get several “sponsors” for the same poll. That is, one client would think he is paying P2.5 million for a particular poll. What he doesn’t know is that the pollster is using the same survey exercise for not just one other client but probably for two or even four more.

This is possible since polling “science” has shown that a respondent could be asked as many as 60 questions in a “face-to-face” interview while most clients would need answers to, at most, only 10 questions. That would mean that for a purported P2.5 million cost of one survey exercise, the pollster could be earning a multiple of P2.5 million – P10 million with four clients.

The SWS, in particular, tries to portray an image to the public that it is a research institution, and makes its findings public. This is a lie: Often, you would find items—as in the poll on Corona’s impeachment—whose results are not disclosed, with the note “reserved for subscribers.”

Of course, SWS is a non-profit corporation, and claims to have academic standing, and even its executives are not called executives but “fellows.”

“Do you agree or disagree that SWS is actually Aquino’s highly-paid propaganda outfit?”