Of surveys and spin

Greg MacabentaAt my favorite watering hole in Daly City, the pundits and kibitzers are trying to make heads or tails of the flood of political news coming from the Philippines. I must say, their heads are spinning from the barrage of spin. As usual, I end up trying to explain things to them from the unique perspective of Pinoy Politics.
The surge of Noynoy Aquino in the public opinion polls, shortly after he announced his presidential bid, is impressive but not a surprise.

In the marketing business, every well-handled new product launch, as well as every opening of a new retail outlet, results in a spike in business, characterized by long lines of customers and a great deal of excitement. Eventually, the lines taper off and the excitement dies down. Then reality sets in.
In Daly City, the opening of the first outlet of Bench at the Serramonte Mall created a near riot as curiosity-seekers joined eager patrons in jamming the new outlet. The Daly City fire department had to step in. Today, Bench is just another clothing outlet among many at the mall. Jollibees first months in Daly City, Union City and National City were phenomenal in terms of customer traffic. Then things calmed down, the crowds thinned, followed by normal business volume.

But to make light of Noynoys surge would be a mistake. You cant laugh at a 50 percent preference in a key area like Luzon. And a dive down to 14 percent, 13 percent, 12 percent and 7 percent for formerly leading contenders Manny Villar, Erap Estrada, Chiz Escuero and Noli de Castro, respectively, should be worrisome.
Are Noynoys handlers spinning the surge? Of course. They would be remiss if they dont. The idea in the midst of a spike is to try to sustain it for as long as possible and, where a dip becomes inevitable, to try to keep it from being too steep. The same principle holds true in politics.

In fact, it is better to have a moderate surge that rises steadily over time than a meteoric peak and an equally meteoric dive. But in a short campaign period, a dramatic surge is a great headstart.

At any rate, I find myself telling the folks at my watering hole who have become overnight Noynoy fanatics to make sure that they still feel the same way the morning after the night before.

That last phrase is a favorite of mine, picked up from comedian Shelley Berman talking about a hangover from a new years eve party.

Expectedly, Malacañang and the spin masters of the other presidentiables have had to quickly add their voices to the din. In marketing, thats called protecting your share of voice.

Heres what executive secretary and Lakas-Kampi-CMD president Eduardo Ermita had to say, according to press reports: We know theres hype over the Aquino name and the survey was done in Luzon. So that is expected. Its better to fight uphill rather than be overconfident and be surprised later.
Translation: Weve got a lot of work to do.

Another member of the administration cheering squad, Rep. Rodolfo Antonino of Nueva Ecija was quoted as follows: There is a long way to go. Now the question is, will this euphoria live until the May elections? Its understandable that Noynoy will have high ratings because of the recent developments. We in the Lakas-Kampi-CMD are not bothered by this survey, our party remains a formidable one because of its political machinery.

Translation: Wait till they start counting the ballots.
This, incidentally, is the same camp that makes a big deal out of a slight uptick in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos popularity/unpopularity ratings. Manny Villar, who is reported to have spent more than any other presidential hopeful in his pre-campaign campaign (according to the Comelec, campaigning before the prescribed period is illegal and could result in the disqualification of a candidate) was more muted in his comments:
Of course we will wait for the other surveys. We want to know the results from all over the Philippines as well as the regular surveys of the SWS and Pulse Asia. It is also important for us to see the basis and the movements or the places covered by the survey.

Translation: May Day. May Day. Send out the fire fighters.
Erap Estrada who, only recently, actually topped the polls, has even tried to sound statesmanlike:
I congratulate him. I hope he would be able to maintain it, adding that he was not bothered by the high rating garnered by Noynoy because Its just a few provinces in Luzon.par translation: Wait till you try to pit your Makati execs against my Great Unwashed.

But Erap, being a wise politico, isnt about to burn his bridges, calling Noynoy a qualified politician.
Kiko Pangilinan, until the surge, a vice-presidential hopeful, has taken a more pragmatic view. According to one news item, he pointed out that the challenge now for the Aquino camp is to mobilize different sectors and the whole country.

We need to see the nationwide survey results to get a picture of the entire national sentiment.
An equally pragmatic opinion was given by Bongbong Marcos. Obviously a believer in the importance of a political machinery, the son of his unlamented father, a master politician, pointed out, quite rightly, that Manny Villar and Erap Estrada have been doing their due diligence nationwide and it will take more than a surge in the polls to catch up with them.

And then theres Ed Malay of the Issues and Advocacy Center who, in one breath, cast doubt on the credibility of the survey showing Noynoys surge, and declared that it was unethical to dispute the work of another research organization.

Thats the one that really got the heads of the folks at the watering hole spinning. Huh? Duh! Of course, its convenient for all the parties in this game of one-upsmanship to have a media cheerfully accommodating all of the spinning while avoiding having to venture an opinion of their own.

They would rather leave the readers to draw their own conclusions, if they can, or to continue having their head spinning from all the spin.

So, here I am trying to make the folks at my favorite watering hole understand the contradictory conjectures and news reports.

The fact, I point out to them, is that there are many factors that come into play in Pinoy Politics. And a public opinion poll is just one of them.
Ask Garci.

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