2028 election too far off for anyone to claim to be the future prez – Pulse Asia

Pulse Asia
Ronald Holmes (right) tells Christian Esguerra of “Facts First” that Pulse Asia's survey showing three of four Filipinos opposed to Charter change was funded by the polling firm itself and not commissioned by any group.

Vice President Sara Duterte and Sen. Raffy Tulfo were statistically tied in a recent survey showing Filipinos’ preference for a presidential candidate, but neither can claim to be the candidate to beat in the 2028 presidential election.   

“I don’t think anyone here can safely say he or she is going to be the president because 2028 is still too far [off]. A lot of things can still happen,” Pulse Asia Research Inc. president Ronald Holmes said Tuesday night on the podcast “Facts First” hosted by Christian Esguerra. 

Holmes also defended Pulse Asia’s survey showing the majority of Filipinos opposed to Charter change from lawmakers assailing the use of alleged leading questions. 

In the survey on presidential candidates, Tulfo was the preferred candidate for president among 35% of registered voters polled between March 6 and 10, followed by Duterte at 34%. The survey had a margin of error of + or – 3%.    

Tulfo, who parlayed his popularity as a public-affairs show host on radio and YouTube into electoral victory in 2022, ranked higher than Duterte in the National Capital Region, the rest of Luzon, and the Visayas. 

Surprisingly, Tulfo garnered 46% over Duterte’s 20% in the Visayas, Holmes noted. But in Mindanao, the political base of the Duterte family, the Vice President had 72% over Tulfo’s 18%. 

Holmes expressed the belief that Duterte’s 34% represented her political base of supporters, specifically the 32 million Filipinos who voted for her as vice president in 2022.  “She carried them over from the previous election,” he said. 

Pulse Asia confirmed that the survey results on the presidential and vice-presidential preferences came from “rider questions” that were included in its Ulat ng Bayan survey in March.

‘Nobody paid’

Another Pulse Asia survey last month showed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. enjoying a 55% approval rating. Duterte had 67%, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri 52%, and Speaker Martin Romualdez 31%.

When asked if Duterte paid for this survey through subscription, Holmes said: “As a matter of policy, we neither confirm nor deny … But I will answer categorically: No.”

He added: “Nobody paid. No government officials were involved.” 

Holmes acknowledged that academic research is funded by external agencies. “But we will not surrender our autonomy to the funder. Because if you do that, you will no longer be called academic; you will be a mercenary,” he said. 

He also said it is not uncommon to find vice presidents enjoying higher approval ratings than presidents in previous administrations from Fidel V. Ramos’ to that of Benigno Aquino III. (In the Duterte administration, then Vice President Leni Robredo was “sidelined,” he observed).  

But it’s “not fair” to compare the approval ratings of the president and the vice president because they perform different functions, and the people hold the president “more accountable” than the vice president, Holmes said. 

Trust ratings are another matter, and the public can compare trust ratings because trust is dependent, not on the position, but on the person, he said. 

‘Multi-stage’ sampling method 

As for Pulse Asia’s survey showing that three of four Filipinos are opposed to Charter change at any time, Holmes defended it from lawmakers’ claims that its questions were skewed against the proposed amendments. 

He said it was part of their regular Ulat ng Bayan survey, which was funded by Pulse Asia itself, and was not commissioned by anyone else.

Holmes said that as in the 20 surveys on Charter change Pulse Asia has conducted since 2003, it employed the “multi-stage” sampling method, in which the province, city, municipality, and barangay, as well as the respondents in a household, were randomly picked.  

The face-to-face interviews—the gold standard in many countries—were conducted in the language preferred by the respondents even though the questions were formulated in Filipino. These lasted from 60 to 90 minutes. 

The “enumerators”—Pulse Asia’s researchers deployed to households to do the survey—are trained in how to read and ask a particular item, and how to respond to a question from the respondents, Holmes said. 

They begin by posing general questions before proceeding to specific ones. In this particular survey, the respondents were first asked if they were aware of the proposed amendments to the Constitution, how much they knew the Constitution, and if they were in favor of rewriting it, he said. 

They were then asked about the specific resolutions from both the Senate and the House of Representatives to ease limits on foreign ownership of public utilities, educational institution and advertising industry

“So there’s no framing of the mindset of the interviewee because the questions asked are from general to specific,” Holmes said. 

Formulated by professors

According to Holmes, the questions were formulated by Pulse Asia’s team of professors from the University of the Philippines and De La Salle University. A number of these questions date back to 2003, when the polling firm began its surveys on Charter change.  

Pulse Asia also accepts “rider questions” from external organizations. “But if we don’t agree on the formulation of the question, we will not run it,” he said. 

House Deputy Speaker David Suarez and Majority Floor Leader Manuel Dalipe had questioned the survey’s “biased and leading questions,” which, they claimed, could have influenced its outcome. 

Suarez cited the questions about changing the current system into a federal government; term extension for national and local elective officials; changing the presidential system to a parliamentary system of government; and shifting from a bicameral to unicameral legislature.

“Of course,” Holmes said, “we also wanted to know what the people’s position is on, say, a shift from unitary to federal system. So here, you will see a shift. Where before they were split, now, they are not in favor of a shift from unitary to federal system.” 

Holmes said the sentiment of a “significant majority” of Filipinos against Charter change may be an offshoot of the irregularities-marred gathering of signatures for a people’s initiative, the crossing of swords between lawmakers in the Senate and the House over the process, and the street protests against the fresh push for constitutional amendments.  

“For me, as a political scientist, [the issue] has become a bit more polarized and divisive. What happened was it became disruptive. Perhaps this would explain their sentiment,” he said.

The 78% of Filipinos expressing opposition to the proposed rewriting of the Constitution is the “highest’’ so far recorded by Pulse Asia since 2003 when it began conducting surveys on Charter change, according to Holmes.

Read more: Only Supreme Court can resolve ‘Achilles’ heel’ of Charter change resolutions, legal luminaries say

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