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SWS’ bogus Duterte poll

The recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll claiming that Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte garnered a 38 percent rating in the presidential race is so obviously flawed, and therefore, a bogus one.

The questionnaire, which SWS used to project the weird candidate as the front-runner:

“Q5: Ibang listahan naman po ang gamitin natin. Kasama dito si RODRIGO DUTERTE bilang isang substitute candidate sa President. Sa mga sumusunod na pangalan sa listahang ito, sino po ang malamang na inyong iboboto bilang PRESIDENTE NG PILIPINAS, kung ang eleksyon ay gaganapin ngayon? (Let’s use a different list. Included here is RODRIGO DUTERTE as substitute candidate for President. Among the following names in this list, who would you likely vote as President of the Philippines if the elections were to be held now?)”

SWS president Mahar Mangahas knows that’s simply not done in professional polling, that it’s a no-no in a poll asking respondents to pick names in a list to mention a particular name. So, why did he still do that?

The poll was “leaked” to one newspaper, obviously by Duterte supporters ecstatic about the results. Or maybe Mr. Mangahas wasn’t expecting the privately commissioned poll to be publicly released, which would show how flawed its questionnaire was.

The questionnaire grossly biases the result, as if the pollster highlighted Duterte’s name with a yellow marker in the list. In the psychological context of opinion polls, that seemingly innocuous mention of Duterte is a huge red neon arrow sign to Duterte telling respondents: “Pick him, pick him!”

It’s as if a pollster asked: Coke has reduced its price by 10 centavos. Which soft drink do you prefer in this list: Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola?

Note that the questionnaire that produced Duterte’s high ratings, or “Q5,” was preceded by a “Q4,” which seems not to have Duterte’s name. Why didn’t SWS release the results of this questionnaire?

SWS’ loaded questionnaire to push up Duterte’s ratings, with practically a neon sign asking respondents to choose him.
SWS’ loaded questionnaire to push up Duterte’s ratings, with practically a neon sign asking respondents to choose him.

SWS’ loaded questionnaire to push up Duterte’s ratings, with practically a neon sign asking respondents to choose him.

I am quite sure Grace Poe would also have a similar high rating if Mangahas had her name, instead, in the questionnaire: “Included here is GRACE POE as candidate for President, who the Senate Electoral Tribunal ruled on Nov. 17 is qualified to be senator, and therefore, likely to be qualified to be President…”

The basic flaw of such voting-preference polls is the fact that at least 30 percent of respondents haven’t really made up their minds on whom to vote many months before the election day, and merely report unconsidered, shallow choices, or the candidate they last heard of or read about in the news. The mention of Duterte’s name in such a questionnaire practically ordered a lot of uncommitted respondents to pick him.

That the latest SWS poll showing Duterte with the highest rating is a bogus one is obvious in the fact that its Sept. 2-5 survey, which was commissioned by a newspaper and not a Duterte supporter as in the case of the recent one, and which didn’t have a loaded preamble mentioning his name, had only 11 percent of the respondents rooting for the Davao City mayor, just matching that of Mar Roxas.

So, Duterte’s ratings jumped by a huge 27 percentage points in just two months of changing his mind thrice about running for the highest office, and barraging the country not with his program of government but with curses, as well as boasting that he took the life of suspected criminals with his own Armalite?

SWS’ other trick
The other trick which the SWS has been doing so often is conducting such a survey to take advantage of the media coverage of what could be manufactured as “people’s opinion.” The group did that for Duterte this time.

In September, the SWS boosted Poe’s ratings to be the frontrunner after the media reported she would definitely run for President.

The poll that raised Duterte’s standing was undertaken on Nov. 26-28, after he finally announced on Nov. 23 in Davao City his “final” decision to run for the presidency. (*The reasons he gave for his change of mind were rather weird: his disappointment with the government’s failure to act on the alleged bullet-planting (tanim-bala) extortion scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s decision favoring Poe.) Following his announcement, he went on a road show of media interviews, projecting himself as a spontaneous, authentic candidate, an indignant one who would topple the corrupt establishment.

Prefacing a question with a statement that covertly prods respondents to pick the one that is actually pushed by the pollster is an old trick that no decent pollster in the world now uses, and I am astonished why SWS still did it. It’s a shame that the leading pollster in the country did it.

Is it a case of a “juke-box” polling, borrowing that old term for journalists on the take, that is, the pollster giving the client who commissioned the poll what he wants to hear?

The SWS itself disclosed that the poll was commissioned by a certain William J. Lima, a Davao-based businessman. We can presume he is a Duterte-supporter.

The only information I could get on Lima is that he is president of TIG Green Technology Mindanao. He represented in 2012 the German firm Herhof GmbH in its proposal to build a $1.2-billion waste-to-water project in Davao City. For some undisclosed reason, though, the project was junked just a few months after it was proposed.

That’s a kind of worrying information as it doesn’t fit with the portrayal of Duterte as a masa politician unconnected with the rich elite: A businessmen pushing for a billion-peso project in Davao City now backing up his candidacy?

Could it be that Lima has been asked to front for a Davao businessmen’s group that has thrown its support behind Duterte, and has started undertaking its candidate’s propaganda strategy, which includes the SWS advertisement posing as a poll?

The debasement of our institutions continues.