"Not until the middle of this year will we have an inkling of who would seriously consider a run."
I have viewed and studied four quantitative research results, or poll surveys on the horse race for the presidency. These were done between mid-December last year and/or end January of this new year.
One of these was publicly released by OCTA Research last Monday, the same research firm contracted by government to assist in the assessment of the pandemic’s effects on the public, as well as efforts to address it.
The other three are privately commissioned surveys by old and established research firms doing either or both political and consumer opinion surveys. Two of these do release their regularly conducted poll surveys while one, a leading consumer research firm, does political opinion polls only if privately contracted.
Who commission “for your eyes only” quantitative research? In my long experience at political campaigns, these are done at the behest of candidates or would-be candidates, or big financiers of political campaigns, or government and its instrumentalities.
The reasons for privately-commissioned surveys are obvious. For candidates, to assess their chances come election day and as a tool for crafting strategy and tactics. For funders, to determine who to support financially, and by how much, no different from betting big or small or none at all. For government, as an instrument for policy-making and program effectiveness.
So let us begin with the OCTA Research group’s Monday-released findings on a plenitude of candidates. They listed 16 candidates, with the results as follows: Sara Duterte 22; Grace Poe 13; Manny Pacquiao 12; Bongbong Marcos 12; Isko Moreno 11; Bong Go 6; Leni Robredo 5; Tito Sotto 3; Alan Cayetano 3; Mar Roxas 2; Cynthia Villar 2; Ping Lacson 2; Sonny Angara 1; Rodrigo Duterte (mismo! y para que?) 1; Chiz Escudero 1; and Dick Gordon 1.
Very few at this point have not chosen any of the above names. That is because the list is too long, and all of the polled political figures are household names.
How would a non-politician like business mogul Ramon Ang have fared if he was listed? Or maybe Manny Pangilinan, who years back was speculated upon as interested in entering the political arena? Or even a Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, who recently teased the public with a Facebook post after almost 11 years of hibernation from the political scene after his defeat in 2010 where his second cousin P-Noy triumphed?
The problem with a long list is that no way are we likely to have 16 candidates for president come October 8, the last day of filing. I also find it queer that OCTA included Pres. Duterte, who is barred by the Constitution from seeking a second term. So basically the list has 15 names, still far too many. We have had anywhere from five to eight candidates at the most since elections were re-introduced in 1992.
Thus, we could only speculate at this point on where the votes of likely non-candidates for president would migrate if OCTA came up with a shorter list.
For instance, if Mar Roxas, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, and Chiz Escudero will not run for president, as likely they will not, where would their collective 6 points migrate to, if we prune the candidate list to say five, or seven?
There was an election when by the middle of the campaign, three candidates had relatively good chances of winning. One candidate thought of persuading another to withdraw, through “enticements.” Wisely, he engaged a polling firm to give him an indication of where the third candidate’s votes would migrate if the latter withdrew. The result: Most of it would go to the first candidate, with a few percentage points accruing to to him.
Candidate number two decided to forego his “persuasive” plan. In the end, Candidate number one emerged Numero Uno and was president for six years.
Note also that in the OCTA list where Mayor Inday Sara led with 22 points, the next four names, namely Grace Poe, Pacquiao, Marcos and Domagoso or Isko Moreno, are statistically tied. Collectively, their votes total 70 percent of the voter preference.
Question: What would the survey results be if only these personalities were listed? How would the 30 percent be scattered among Inday Sara, or Pacman, or Isko, or Grace?
Answer: At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.
Let’s flash back to the 2016 elections, the political fever having started earlier, in mid-2014 or two years before the elections. The June-July released surveys had Vice-Pres. Jojo Binay leading by a mile, with 41 percent of the vote. By the first quarter of 2015, the Davao City mayor started his “learn and listen” tour, using the federalism card as his soap box. Likewise, the camp of the 2013 senatorial topnotcher, Grace Poe, started making noises about her possible candidacy for the top post.
Gradually, we saw the high numbers of Binay clipped, pruned even. Mar Roxas stayed at number three, with Grace Poe suddenly seizing second place, and the mayor from Davao still in high single-digit territory.
But when filing time in October 2015 came, Binay and Poe were already toe-to-toe, with Duterte stealing the thunder from Roxas.
By April of 2016, a month before the elections, it was all over but the shouting. The Davao mayor would win, with Poe and Roxas vying for second place, Binay at fourth, and the late Miriam Santiago at fifth. Eventually, Mar won by a slim margin over Grace, but Digong was a mile ahead of both.
Now, the other three poll surveys with a shorter list of candidates invariably had Inday Sara leading the pack, ahead of Isko Moreno by anywhere between 5 to 8 points, then Bongbong, Poe and the Pacman, even Leni Robredo, with numbers close to each other. Then Bong Go farther behind, along with Ping Lacson. In one survey where Tito Sotto was included in the list, he was statistically tied with Bong and Ping.
None of the three other surveys listed Villar, Escudero, Cayetano, Angara, Gordon and certainly not the president.
Because of the pandemic, the election fever is still on very low heat. Not until the middle of this year will we have an inkling of how many of the names being bandied around would seriously consider a run. And not until the first week of October this year will we know who will truly run for president of this benighted land.