MANILA, Philippines - Public satisfaction with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has fallen to the lowest on record with less than 100 days left before she is scheduled to step down from her post, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed.
The quarterly poll, conducted last March 19-22, also found that most Filipinos do not believe Mrs. Arroyo is intending to "extend her term" by seeking a congressional seat in her home province of Pampanga.
The poll results, made exclusive to BusinessWorld, showed Mrs. Arroyo’s net satisfaction rating at a "very bad" -53 , the lowest notched by a president since the independent survey research institution began the survey in 1986.
It is the difference of the 16% who said they approved of her performance and the 69% who said otherwise.
The president’s latest rating, which eclipsed the previous record of -50 she obtained in July 2008, also reflected a 15-point drop from her "bad" net score of -38 last December 2009.
Mrs. Arroyo’s best net satisfaction score is +30, hit in March 2004. Her rating fell into negative territory seven months later and has remained there since. None of her predecessors -- Corazon C. Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph E. Estrada -- received a negative score.
The highest presidential satisfaction rating recorded by the SWS is +72, notched by Mrs. Aquino in October 1986.
The SWS considers score of +50 and above as "very good"; +30 to +49, "good"; +10 to +29, "moderate"; +9 to -9, "neutral"; -10 to -29, "poor"; -30 to -49, "bad"; and -50 or lower, "very bad."
The survey, conducted from March 19 to 22, involved face-to-face interviews of 2,100 registered voters nationwide, divided into random samples of 300 in Metro Manila and 600 each in the Balance of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.
The sampling error margins were ±2.2% for national percentages, ±6% for Metro Manila, and ±4% for the Balance of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.
The respondents were also asked to react to the statement: "Balak ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo na habaan pa ang kanyang termino; kung kaya’t tumatakbo ito bilang kongresista/representante sa distrito nito sa Pampanga. (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is planning to extend her term; that is why she is running for Congress in her district in Pampanga.)
Sixty percent of the respondents said they disagreed, while 24% said otherwise. The remaining 16% were undecided.
Mrs. Arroyo is barred from seeking a second term by the Constitution, which limits the president’s term to six years. She has, however, been president for nine years, serving the rest of Mr. Estrada’s term after the latter was deposed in the 2001 People Power Revolution.
Mrs. Arroyo, whose term will end on June 30, has been accused of trying to stay in power by running for congresswoman of the second district of Pampanga, making her the first president to seek an elective post after vacating Malacañang.
Her critics allege that Mrs. Arroyo’s candidacy is part of a plan to become Speaker of the House of Representatives, amend the Constitution, and eventually become prime minister.
Asked to comment, deputy presidential spokesperson Gary B. Olivar said in a text message yesterday, "The continued unpopularity of the president is no surprise given the toxic campaign being waged by certain oppositionist parties especially through certain media networks.
"In fact her unpopularity might be described as unthinking ... Once the campaign poison is over, we’re confident that a rational public can finally take full measure of this president’s substantial achievements."
Earl G. Parreno, political analyst at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, said the respondents "got it right" when they disagreed that Mrs. Arroyo was looking to stay in power.
The president, he said, is not assured of the backing of her current allies in the House if she becomes a congresswoman.
"She may win but she is not sure if she will have support of her so-called allies. She is no longer president, and historical trends show that loyalty of congressmen is with whoever is in power because that person can withhold the funds for their districts," Mr. Parreno said in a phone interview.
Mrs. Arroyo saw her net satisfaction rating fall to "very bad" from merely "bad" in all geographic areas except in the Visayas, by socioeconomic class, and in gender terms.
It was down 20 points to -64 in Metro Manila from -44 previously; by 19 points to -54 in Mindanao from -35, by 17 points to -52 in the Balance of Luzon from -35, but was barely changed at -46 in the Visayas from -45 a quarter ago.
Net satisfaction in urban areas went down by 16 points to -56 from -40 and likewise fell, by 14 points to -49 from -35, in rural areas.
The president’s score also fell to "very bad" across all socioeconomic classes: by 18 points in class E to -53, by 17 points to -51 in class ABC, and 12 points to -52 among the class D or masa (masses).
In terms of gender, Mrs. Arroyo’s net rating among men fell by 16 points to -55, and was down 13 points to -50 among women.