Just before Christmas, three poll surveys released their last quarter quantitative research on the same week: The Standard’s Junie Laylo, Pulse Asia, and Social Weather Stations.
Without having to mention the specific numbers, as it would be mental indigestion to write here the gaggle of numbers, two things can be clearly read: (1) It will be a tight race among the top four contenders; and (2) there is a revival of what seemed like the flagging hopes of a Binay victory in May 2016; a Jojo Binay redux.
Of course, those were the snapshots in the first to second weeks of December. Remarkably captured were Duterte’s cussing of the traffic, using the Pope as unfortunate example; Poe- Llamanzares’ disqualification by one division of the Comelec; and in the SWS field research of 12-14 December, the beginnings of the word war between Roxas and Duterte on the former’s Wharton credentials and the latter’s Davao crime index. Except for the revival of his 2010 ad message where the Makati freebies are once again highlighted, Binay was quiet and out of the spotlight.
For sure, all four had their share of TV advertorials in the weeks preceding the survey period. Roxas and his solo perorations on good governance and “daang matuwid” coupled with his duets with showbiz celebrity Boy Abunda; Grace with her promises of taking care of the sick and elderly as well as her promising to “fix” the MRT; Binay with the revival of his Makati showcase; Duterte and Alan Cayetano in tandem ads decrying crime proliferation and promising change. (The precedence of enumeration is directly proportionate to the air time allocations and of course, the money spent, from biggest spender to lowest.)
And except for Duterte who was either in Davao or Manila, the presidential candidates were moving all over the country. Miriam, the other candidate of note, was virtually unseen and unheard from.
Barring any final disqualification by either Poe or Duterte, it will be anybody’s game for the four. The eventual winner will probably get 33-35 percent of the national vote, pulling away only in the last two weeks of the campaign from a tight four-way race. The second and third placers should be close to each other at 22-25 percent; and the fourth placer, from whom the winner will get most of his last-minute bandwagon votes from, will be in the 15-17 percent vote band. And the fifth will predictably get 4 to 5 percent of the votes cast.
But more of such forecasts will come out, this time backed by survey numbers, as the campaign heats up. SWS and Pulse Asia and perhaps The Standard through Junie Laylo, should be coming up with monthly surveys the results of which would be unveiled starting end-January 2016.
What is unmistakably evident in all three surveys is the Binay redux.
In mid-2014, the vice president was virtually “unbeatable” with 40 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him as president then, and the 60 percent divided among eight others, including Poe, Roxas, Duterte, Estrada, Santiago, Escudero, Cayetano, and Trillanes.
By mid-2015, after several Senate Blue Ribbon hearings and Ombudsman woes, that 40 percent had been halved, with most of Binay’s 20-percent loss going to the Poe and Duterte columns. The question five months ago was whether Binay had reached his “solid” base, or whether the 20 percent could yet be eroded.
For the administration candidate, Mar Roxas, it seemed that a two-way race, between Binay and himself was ideal. It would be his “daang matuwid” versus his accusation of Binay being the “daang baluktot.” Voters would have no other choices other than black or white.
Whether true or not, the perception created in the last five months was that the administration candidate’s handlers were hell-bent on eliminating all others in the race, except Binay. Or, if luck and machination would prevail, all of the opponents of Mar would be out of the race: Poe and Duterte disqualified (in mid-2015 no one in fact could say for sure that Duterte would go for the presidential sweepstakes); Binay in detention.
Of course, that was a stretch. Even if Mar’s handlers salivated at the prospect of putting Binay in detention, I seriously doubt if either Mar or PNoy, especially PNoy, would have countenanced the same.
Take note of the numbers, though. Since mid-2015, after Binay’s numbers were halved, they steadied at the 20s, give or take the nationwide margins of error at plus or minus three. They just stayed there, as the Mona Lisa song warbled. Would they “die” there?
Meanwhile, Poe’s numbers which zoomed to the 40s after her declaration have been shaved to the high 20s; Duterte shot up to the high 30s, then plummeted to the mid-20s; and Roxas remained static at 20. But Binay remained steady, keeping his base, even gaining a few points in the last quarter of this year. If this is a solid base, then the prospects for the other candidates are going to be tough. The contest will be very, very tight.
There are three very important findings borne out by the tale of the numbers game.
One: some 35-40 percent of the respondents say they could still change their mind on their current choices. Remove this from the universe, the numbers are firm only for some 60-65 percent of the voters. In the order of firmness of current choice, Binay tops, Poe and Duterte are tied up at second, and Roxas last. What happens during the campaign will determine where the seemingly undecided, the “parkers” I call them, will go. They “parked” with Poe, wandered towards Duterte, then now still in limbo, looking for their idea of a “savior.”
I suspect that this time, with the millennials showing high interest, the debates will be closely watched. And social media will be very important. So how the candidates campaign in the next four months leading to May will spell the difference between victory or defeat in this close, close race.
Two: the “yellow” vote is estimated at 11-12 percent of the nationwide total. Most of these will go to the Mar-Leni tandem.
Three: the message of continuing the “daang matuwid” is failing to resonate. The ABC income level respondents are demanding performance; the D1 want change; the D2 also want change and seem more tolerant about perceptions of corruption; the E want a better life, corruption allegations notwithstanding.
The last paragraph explains why the Binay numbers are firming up at a solid 20 percent, why there is a Binay redux.