MANILA - Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte emerged as the top choice for president of voters in all socioeconomic classes and majority of geographic areas, according to a nationwide survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS) in the last week of November.
In a survey released Monday, Duterte was favored nationwide by 38 percent of voters, leaving Senator Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay tied at second place with 21 percent.
Former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas obtained 15 percent and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago scored 4 percent.
The survey, commissioned by a Davao-based businessman, had 1,200 respondents, and a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points at the national level and plus or minus 6 percentage points at the regional level.
Respondents were asked the following question: "Ibang listahan naman po ang gamitin natin. Kasama dito si Rodrigo Duterte bilang isang substitute candidate sa Presidente. Sa mga sumusunod na pangalan sa listahang ito, sino po ang malamang ninyong iboboto bilang PRESIDENTE NG PILIPINAS, kung ang eleksyon ay gaganapin ngayon? (SHOW LIST 2)"
The survey showed Duterte as the top choice among voters in the National Capital Region (48%), Visayas (44%) and Mindanao (50%).
Poe had higher voter preference in Luzon (28%), followed by Binay (27%) and Duterte (26%).
Duterte also dominated voter preference among the upper and middle classes, scoring 62 percent. Forty-six points behind him was Binay with 16 percent, followed by Poe with 13 percent.
The Davao mayor also topped voter preference among Class D (37%) and E (32%) respondents.
The polling firm ran the survey from November 26 to 28, a few days after Duterte finally declared his presidential bid.
The survey was conducted two days before the mayor came under fire for his expletive-laced speech cursing Pope Francis.
A political science professor believes that while many expected an improvement in Duterte's survey ratings after declaring his presidential bid, the surge in his numbers had been unexpected.
Speaking to Mornings at ANC, Prof. Edmund Tayao said: "Everyone was already expecting that there will be some numbers that will be taken from Senator Grace Poe and Secretary Mar. But this much is somewhere unimagined, really."
"Why? Probably [because] the survey was undertaken before the controversial pronouncements of the mayor. But this is still something to take note of. It means that the so-called base support of the earlier declared candidates have been eroded," he added.
Duterte placed fourth in last SWS survey in September, with only 11 percent of registered voters favoring him. The poll was topped by Poe, who got 26 percent followed by Binay and Roxas, who were in a statistical tie.
Tayao said the massive support of the upper and middle class for Duterte may be rooted on admiration of his track record as mayor of the country's largest city.
"He represents Davao City and you know, it is a highly urbanized center. It is in fact, the biggest city in the whole country. And the fact that he has that trophy to brag about and suggest, 'Davao is Davao because of me,'" it shows that people at the urban centers will really look at him as an alternative candidate," Tayao said.
Tayao added that Duterte commands appeal from fellow Visayans because of a shared heritage, and also from voters in Mindanao because of his moves to push for a federal form of government.
Tayao, however, believes that the backlash following Duterte's off-color remarks against Pope Francis may hurt his chances in the presidential race, and show in the next surveys.
"Saying cuss words is one thing but saying it particularly for a person not only of equal popularity but more popular than he is probably," he said.
"To a certain extent, I am inclined to think that the Filipino public is still relatively conservative compared to other culture."
Duterte, during his no-holds barred speed when the PDP-Laban proclaimed him as its presidential bet last week, was heavily criticized for supposedly cursing the Pope after the latter's January visit in Manila triggered traffic jams.
The feisty mayor has apologized to the public and clarified that he did not curse the Pontiff, but the government's incompetence at handling the Papal visit.
Tayao believes that the feisty mayor should tone down his strongman approach to politics because winning the favor of big businesses will take more than candid soundbites.
"For you to attract big business is for you to convince them that you are not only someone who is out to undo many of the mistakes done by previous administrations but someone with a clear vision for the country," he said.