Pulse Asia: On disinformation regarding our pre-election surveys

Ronald Holmes, Pulse Asia president

Posted at May 03 2022 09:26 PM

As a non-partisan, non-profit, non-stock organization of academics, Pulse Asia Research Inc. has consistently released to the public the results of our regular quarterly and the periodic pre-election surveys without fear or favor. (1) The dissemination of survey results manifests the value our organization places on the people’s right to information. We likewise hope that in releasing our survey results, we could elicit feedback from fellow academics, comments that are important in improving our work in 
taking the public’s pulse.

We were made aware of comments posted on social media by an esteemed statistician, Dr. Romulo Virola. In his May 2, 2022 post, Dr. Virola asserts that there are “flaws” in the Pulse Asia survey that must be rectified. We thank Dr. Virola for taking the time in analyzing data from our surveys. Nonetheless, it is important to correct his assertions as regards the flaws in our surveys, as follows:

  1. On the under-representation of socio-economic classes, A, B, and C. Dr. Virola employed the Unified Socio-Economic Classification (1SEC) that was proposed by a study group composed of academics and market research practitioners. This proposed 1SEC originally had nine SEC clusters. (2) This is different from the regular SEC used by most market research firms and Pulse Asia that divides the population into five groups, A, B, C, D, and E. Given this difference, it would be difficult to simply deduce that certain clusters from 1SEC could be classified as A, B, C, D, or E. It is also important to note that the 2017 1SEC cited by Dr. Virola continues to be subject to further validation. 
  2. On the under-representation of the youth (various age groups from 18 to 41) and those who have higher educational attainment. Given the sampling method that Pulse Asia employs, probabilistically selected respondents come from various socio-demographic groups. In our reports, however, we note the margin of error for each socio-demographic group (SDG). This margin of error reflects the variance for the SDG given its share of the total sample of the survey and corrects, to a significant extent, what Dr. Virola finds as an under/over sampling of specific SDGs.

    Are GenZs, Millennials underrepresented in Pulse Asia surveys? Holmes responds
     
  3. Dr. Virola proceeds to a correction of our March 2022 survey by applying what he believes to be the distribution of socio-economic classes (based on 1 SEC) and adjusting the values for the under-represented (or over-represented) groups. While such adjustments are acceptable, he works with assumptions on the share of votes of Mr. Bongbong Marcos and Vice President Robredo, assumptions that he himself labels as “quite arbitrary”. We agree with his labeling of his assumptions as “arbitrary” as survey data, not only in March 2022, but in earlier and later (December 2021, January 2022, February 2022, and April 2022) pre-election surveys, show that Marcos has a marginally or significantly higher support in the groups that Dr. Virola assumed would be more supportive of Vice President Robredo. Thus, if we follow Dr. Virola’s logic, a larger sample from the younger and more educated groups may actually inflate Mr. Marcos’ support. 

We understand that survey results will elicit varied opinions. We respect all forms of feedback on our survey results, including fair academic comment on differing methodologies and interpretations of data. We have emphasized, time and again, that survey results are time bound and, except for the exit poll, face serious limitations as a means of predicting actual election results. We do take exception, however, to three other baseless assertions that have gained unwarranted traction in some circles and some media.

First, that Pulse Asia Research has been bought. Second, that our survey field work has been compromised due to the infiltration of partisan groups. Third, that it is illegal to publish survey results 15 days before election day.

Our organization will never submit to any form of material inducement or even intimidation that will make us deviate from or distort accepted social science principles and practice. We have also taken all the necessary safeguards to secure the integrity of our field work against any and all forms of infiltration. Finally, the Supreme Court in 2001 (3) struck down as unconstitutional a provision in Republic Act 9006 that prohibited the publication of survey results close to election day as it constitutes a prior restraint on the freedom of expression, among others. 

Those who make these unfair and unjust criticisms bear the responsibility for their baseless accusations feeding into the spiral of disinformation and malinformation that afflicts our society. These false accusations only further deepen polarization and distrust and contribute to the continuous erosion of an already extremely feeble democratic order.

FOOTNOTES

(1) All publicly released survey results are part of our own non-commissioned surveys. 
(2) Under the current 1SEC of the Marketing and Opinion Research Society (MORES), there are just 6 clusters.
(3) G.R. No. 147571 May 5, 2001 SOCIAL WEATHER STATIONS, INCORPORATED and KAMAHALAN PUBLISHING CORPORATION, doing business as MANILA STANDARD, petitioners, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent

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