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Sunday, September 25, 2022

[OPINION] Surveys are not infallible but Robredo’s campaign must go back to fundamentals: TV & Radio Air War

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josef san jose
an ordinary man trying to do extraordinary things

Vico and the surveys

In 2019, most election surveys predicted a resounding and heartbreaking loss for Vico Sotto, a new blood with an old political name trying to topple a dynasty in Pasig.

The final election week (May 4-8) survey by RPMission put Mayor Bobby Eusebio at 61% and Vico Sotto at 38%, a twenty three (23) percentage points of seemingly insurmountable lead.

His campaign is a long shot bid against the 27-year old Eusebio dynasty without money or machinery, running without a Vice Mayor and with only two councilors.

But even if a loss is expected, supporters of Vico were hopeful seeing people flocking to his political rallies despite the culture of fear and intimidation perpetrated by the Eusebios.

Dagsa ang tao kahit pinagbantaan at tinakot. Kahit nga pagbebenta ng malagkit na biko ipinagbawal.

Years of pent-up frustration on incompetence and corruption led people to seriously look at Vico, a political neophyte that might actually have a chance of beating a dynasty.

And suprise surprise, the election result was a repudiation of all pre-election surveys.

Vico won with 63.27% against 36.73% for Eusebio of the total votes cast. A total reversal of polling predictions.

NAGKAMALI ANG SURVEY, not just within the margin of error, but bigtime.

Team Robredo must go back to campaign fundamentals: TV and Radio

Although it’s plausible that survey trends may not accurately predict election results, it must be noted that SWS and Pulse Asia have been consistently predicting elections outcomes accurately since 1992.

That is why the results of the latest Pulse Asia Survey must be received with so much prudence and caution especially from the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo.

The 60% rating for Bongbong Marcos at this point of the election campaign is truly unprecedented since the survey firms begin to track voters’ preference.

Meanwhile, VP Leni Robredo’s 15% rating leaves much to be desired.

What could possibly explain such dismal survey numbers for the hardworking Vice President?

The answer may not be as complex as it may seem but as simple and fundamental as VP Leni Robredo’s low television and radio presence especially in the provinces based on anecdotal evidence we received.

Although latest data suggest that TV viewership has declined significantly in recent years with the internet and social media overtaking it in terms of the number of hours spent by Filipinos, this cannot altogether discount the significance of TV ads and radio publicities in election campaigns.

TV viewership declines through the years. Graph lifted from Philippines In View 2021 Executive Summary of Asia Video Industry Association

It is basic in election campaigns that Filipino voters especially in provinces and other far flung areas rely on regional TV for news, and regional radio commentators for their daily political insights.

Take time to imagine farmers and fisherfolks who listen to Bombo Radyo as the dawn breaks, during lunch time, siesta and after they return home.

And with the cost of wifi or cellular data including the limited internet bandwidth and signal in some areas in the provinces, these folks who comprise the majority of Filipino voters would not browse Facebook, Twitter, Google or Youtube for news or trending topics like the Pinklosion, Pinkolympics or Pinkwave or hardcore political commentaries.

While it’s true that social media and internet consumptions have overtaken TV and radio, this insight might only be true for the purpose of market consumer research but not in political campaigns which involve totally different objective and subjects or participants.

Not to mention that the decline in TV viewership and rise of digital content consumerism in the country can be attributed partly to ABS-CBN shutdown, but this does not foreclose the possibility that voters have shifted to consuming more regional radio contents for news and political insights.

According to latest data from Kantar, 62% of their respondents accessed media contents through radio or audio for the past 12 months, while 52% accessed radio for the last seven days.

In 2019, the Philippine Statistics Authority has published data on the exposures to mass media of Filipinos in urban and rural areas. It noted:

“In urban areas, Filipinos 10 to 64 years old mostly watched television (97.3%), surfed the internet through social media (82.5%), and made calculations (80.4%). They were least exposed to reading a newspaper (68.6%), attending meetings (67.2%), and writing a report/correspondence (47.0%).

In rural areas, high exposure to television (94.4%), calculations (80.2%) and radio (74.7%) were typical for them. They were least exposed to reading a newspaper (56.5%), surfing the internet for research work and e-mail (52.3%), and writing a report/correspondence (40.0%) in 2019.”

On this score, we heard that gross amounts of campaign money are being funneled to provinces for TV and radio publicities coming from certain leading presidential candidate.

Some of these campaign funds allegedly came from “tongpats” money from certain government infrastructure projects under Build Build Build collected by a local politician/patron then channeled to the presidential campaign of a candidate.

We are aware that there are grey areas in the current COMELEC regulations when it comes to radio publicities, but if a political candidate or their supporters are able to secure, albeit informally and clandestinely, blocktime slot or when paid radio commentators openly propagandize or favor a political candidate from dawn to dusk (and dusk to dawn) or act as the candidate’s (micro) influencers, such will truly create a rich ecosystem of propaganda and disinformation that is the backbone of the campaign strategy of a presidential candidate which is proving to be very effective.

We think that all these can partly explain the current dismal survey numbers of Vice President Leni Robredo from Pulse Asia, SWS, Laylo, OCTA and other polling firms.

Can Team Leni Robredo catch up on this air war with roughly two months left before the May 10 election? Her team should!

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