Pollster vows 'doing best' for poll transparency
MANILA — The Social Weather Stations (SWS) acknowledged on Thursday it was "very hard" to measure potential fear of government among respondents, which some surmise could influence the results of surveys.
As the pollster revealed President Rodrigo Duterte's satisfaction ratings, SWS fellow Geoffrey Ducanes recognized that questions may be raised on how much of the figures is influenced by personal experience, misinformation, and propaganda.
"One can also ask, as others have speculated, how much is driven by fear of expressing dissatisfaction so that what is observed is not real satisfaction?" Ducanes said in a webinar.
"These are not readily easily answerable with existing data. But these are things that can be explored in succeeding surveys and studies, of course, not just by SWS, but also other scholars and researchers," he continued.
A pollster can ask respondents if they are fearful or have interviewers look out for signs of anxiety among people answering surveys, Ducanes said.
"I think based on those first two ways of measuring it, at the moment, we have not seen any indication that the results are driven by fear," he said.
But a third approach to ensure that fear dos not influence survey results is to run sophisticated experiments, none of which have been done yet, he said.
SWS fellow Jorge Tigno said he believed "there’s just a need to refine the way that we measure these aspects."
"When people say they’re afraid, we take that as a given. But when people say they are not afraid, I mean do we take that as a given as well? It’s very hard to measure fear," he said.
SWS fellow-in-residence and board member Steven Rood said the possible fear factor "is in fact a discussion within Social Weather Stations as an institution."
"There are other ways of looking at this, and we’ll take a look at it. And believe me, there are people in Social Weather Stations who believe that hypotheses and are pressing to make sure that we’re testing in a rigorous fashion," he said.
The SWS webinar revealed Duterte's satisfaction rating peaked in November 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pollster also found Duterte's satisfaction rating at +62 percent in June 2021, the start of his last year as president, which is a "noticeable difference" from his predecessors whose ratings went down towards the end of their terms.
Rood said in his over 4 decades of teaching statistics, he has been continually confronted by those who believe the figures are "not in accord with their experience on the ground."
But he said, "We are all confronted with our own realities that are not necessarily the realities of everybody else."
"What Social Weather Stations tries to do is to be very transparent in our methodology, ‘These are our questions, this is how we reach the respondents’… We do our best to be totally transparent to assure the people that nothing is being skewed," Rood said.
He nonetheless said, "I do accept and we, many of us on the board, accept the fact there’s a lot of possibilities that we can do if we had enough resources, more of it, to explain statistics better."