Bad news may have caused drop in Villar's ratings

By Maria Althea Teves,

Posted at Apr 30 2010 09:47 PM | Updated as of May 06 2010 02:20 AM

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MANILA, Philippines--"Sustained bad news" may have been the reason for the continued decline in the survey ratings of Nacionalista Party (NP) standard bearer Manuel Villar Jr.

Since January 2010, Villar's ratings in surveys by different polling firms gradually slipped to the 20's range from comfortably staying in the mid-30 range.

Villar's rating, so far, has not increased since the start of the campaign period. His latest ratings show his lowest performance.

Pedro Laylo Jr., resident pollster of Manila Standard Today (MST), told that sustained negative news coverage, especially by television networks, caused Villar's trust ratings to dwindle. This impacted heavily on his vote share. (Read more on the Laylo Reports.)

The latest MST survey showed that more than half (56%) of the 2,500 respondents said that they have received mostly negative news about Villar, compared to 3 other presidential aspirants, Benigno Aquino III, Joseph Estrada, and Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

He is followed by Aquino (48%), Estrada (46%), and Teodoro (44%).

Pulse Asia chief research fellow Ana Tabunda told that Villar's ratings decreased from 3 to 7 points in their latest survey because of allegations that he used his position as senate president to pressure the Securities and Exchange Commission to decide in favor of his real estate company public offering. (Read: The inside story of Villar's visit to PSE)

This headline broke out on April 23, which is within the survey period of the latest Pulse Asia survey.

Other headlines captured within the April 23-25 Pulse Asia survey period were about the defection of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD members to the Liberal Party (LP) and NP. (Read: Lakas-Kampi defections: 'Villaroyo' or 'Gloriaquino'?)

According to communication strategist Malou Tiquia, the defections to the NP camp by Lakas-Kampi members could have been handled better by Villar's camp. She said that Villar was “unfortunately” tagged "Villaroyo."

Her analysis is that members were simply defecting, and it wasn't because of Arroyo's orders. “Defections in politics is all about who is the perceived winner,” she said.

The "Villaroyo" tag hurt Villar's ratings in the March 2010 Pulse Asia survey, according to Pulse Asia president Ronald Holmes. (Read: 'Villaroyo' tag may have hurt Villar: Pulse Asia chief)

In March, when Villar experienced his biggest slip in the Social Weather Stations survey from 3.8 to 8.2 points, SWS president Mahar Managahas told that he did not want make assumptions on whether the large drop was because of the bad news he received.

He said that the survey just showed that Villar's ratings suffered the biggest loss in that particular period.

Timed exposes

Villar has placed considerable volume of advertisements in broadcast stations, as well as flooded streets with his campaign paraphernalia. He has said that it's his way of leveling the playing field, given the free exposure that most media outlets are giving his closest rival, Aquino.

Laylo said that advertisements no longer worked since voters began to rely heavily on earned media, more popularly known as television news, for information.

Aquino, starting in late February until the present, benefits the most because most voters say they are getting more positive news about him, Laylo said.

Tabunda had the same sentiment. She said in a television interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel that now, as elections near, voters are tuning in to news about candidates.

According to Tabunda, different political camps have “very good” political strategists who time the release of an exposé while surveys are being conducted so as to affect change in ratings of another candidate.

The MST survey conducted last March 21-23 showed that among those who would vote for Villar (26%) were exposed in the past week to news about him (68%), his television ads (82%), radio ads (30%), and print ads (15%).

In an earlier survey conducted by MST (February 20-26), news about the candidate (46%) is one of the helpful means in deciding to vote for him. This is only second to television commercials or ads, which was cited by 52% of the respondents.

Layo said in his report that “the candidates' exposure and image” could explain why their ratings in the February survey were “almost unchanged” from the January survey. (Read his report entitled Voters swayed by paid advertisements)

Media savvy NCR

But even earlier on, bad news hampered the effect of ads.

Tabunda told last February that Villar's ratings could have gone higher in January 2010 because of his frequently played ads. However, the C-5 road controversy was resurrected around that time, when he was statistically tied with LP standard bearer Aquino. (Read: Villar's ads exceed airtime of 5 rivals)

Villar lost 7 points in both the Visayas and Mindanao in the latest Pulse Asia survey. Given the margin of error of +/-5%, Villar lost around 2 to 12 points.

If the reason for Villar's decrease in the latest survey was the negative news about him, then it means that those in the Visayas and Mindanao were not as affected by negative reports than those in the National Capital Region (NCR).

According to statisticians interviewed before, NCR is considered the most media savvy, being the area most exposed to news and advertisements.

Tabunda told that Villar's ratings in NCR have been consistently low.

Pulse Asia Regional Breakdown

 March 2010  17  26  30  23
 April 2010  15  21  23


 The NCR drop (compared to March 2010) is within the margin of error of +/-7 points. The Luzon margin of error is +/-3. VIllar lost only 2-8 percentage points in Luzon.

Four against one

NP spokesman Adel Tamano told in a phone interview that although Villar has dominated the airwaves with political ads, the presidential candidate is powerless against all the attacks.

“It's very difficult to answer all allegations. It's not one-on-one. It's one versus four,” Tamano said, referring to Villar's rivals, Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, Estrada, Richard Gordon, and the LP.

In November 2008, Madrigal alleged that Villar caused the double allocation in the budget for the same stretch of road that traversed the properties of his company. The issue was revived in the Senate in January 2010. She also alleged that Villar landgrabbed various agricultural lands for his real estate business.

This month, Estrada and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino partymate Juan Ponce Enrile alleged that Villar influenced the stock exchange to favor the public listing of his company. Gordon claimed that Villar bribed him to not push through with the presidential race.

The NP claims that it was the LP that coined the term "Villaroyo," saying that Villar is not a real oppositionist because he is the "secret candidate" of President Arroyo.

“They're all hitting Manny [Villar] at the same time. There has been a flurry of negative campaigning. It's below the belt,” Tamano said. (Read: Villar, Erap tie at 2nd place)

Although Villar's ratings are declining, Tamano said that they are confident they will catch up. (