Polling Firms Should Explain Errors and Malpractices Before Continuing Their Surveys

February 26, 2010

Former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad today (February 26) called on Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia to explain their polling errors and malpractices before continuing with their preelection surveys on the May 2010 elections.

Tatad said that SWS should first explain its fatally flawed Metro Manila exit poll of the 2004 elections, which totally missed the mark.

At the same time, he demanded that Pulse Asia disclose to the public how many candidates have paid how much to the polling firm in order to participate in and benefit from its surveys.

“I believe this is the irreducible minimum ethical and professional requirement before the two firms resume their unrestrained effort to shape public perceptions on the next presidential elections. Our people have a right to make this demand in light of the far from exemplary record of the two firms and the unaccountable power they now seem to possess,” Tatad said.

The former senator recalled the infamous SWS 2004 presidential elections exit poll in which SWS, within hours of the close of balloting on May 11, announced that the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo got 31 percent of the votes in Metro Manila as against the opposition candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. who reportedly got 23 percent.

The SWS announcement was dutifully recorded around the world, landing on the pages of such reputable US newspapers as the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, which both described SWS as a “respected forecaster.”

However, when the official Commission on Elections count came, Poe took Metro Manila with 1,452,380 votes or 36.67 percent of the votes, while Arroyo got 1,049,016 votes or 26.46 percent of the votes. FPJ won in all 15 Metro Manila cities and towns except Las Piñas, where he lost by a mere 1,876 votes.

Tatad said that this gross misreading of the results of the 2004 presidential polls by SWS ranks with the biggest polling errors in history, including the misreading of the 1948 US election which US pollsters predicted in favor of Tom Dewey over Harry Truman.

“SWS has shown serious limitations in its polling record. Yet despite those limitations, it once again seeks to foist itself upon us as a competent and faithful interpreter of public opinion as the campaign enters its critical stages,” Tatad said.

The ex-senator also said he would ask Pulse Asia to make a full disclosure of the services it has sold to politicians who are eager to rate in its surveys.

“Contrary to what appears to be sound ethical practice, the firm has been inviting politicians to participate in its surveys at the rate of P400,000 per head, and to introduce ‘rider’ questions about their candidacies at P100,000 each,” he said.

Tatad noted that the candidates’ names have never been published, and neither have the “rider” questions.

“Since the questionnaire forms the soul of any survey, it should be neutral and not biased for or against anyone. But the fact that paying politicians are allowed to contribute their own questions is not the best way of ensuring the neutrality and objectivity of the questions. And it does not prevent anyone from asking, what else is being sold aside from the questions?” Tatad said.

The former senator said it’s now time to make room for a new set of professionals so that opinion polling can be done according to the highest professional and ethical standards worthy of the whole-hearted support of the Filipino people. #

(See full document on SURVEY WATCH section)


Tatad calls on media to be wary of fatally flawed pre-election surveys

February 17, 2010

Pre-election surveys in the Philippines are doing Filipinos more harm than good as survey firms employ flawed and misleading methodologies long discredited in more advanced democracies.

This was revealed by former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad in a presentation entitled “Philippine Pre-election Surveys Are Fatally Flawed” before the Fernandina media forum at Club Filipino Wednesday (17 February 2010).

“Local pollsters have used methodologies and techniques that are flawed and discredited, and have long been discarded in the US, where public opinion polling was invented and turned into a billion-dollar industry,” Tatad said.

Among the flawed practices of local pollsters like Pulse Asia, Social Weather Station (SWS) and other less known practitioners involved in pre-election surveys which Tatad cited are Face-to-face Interviewing, Quota and Cluster Sampling, Loaded and Lengthy Questionnaires, Trial Heat Polls and Pick 3 Polling, all of which he said are stated in the methodologies made public by these respective companies.

Tatad likewise pointed out Philippines pollsters have ignored standards for professional and ethical practice of public opinion polling that elsewhere are regarded as sacred by polling associations and reputable pollsters.

“Professional standards are virtually non-existent in the local opinion polling industry,” the former Senator said. “No law regulating the conduct of opinion polling, and no professional association of pollsters either to set and enforce standards of conduct and standards of disclosure and ensure “the reliability and validity of survey results.”

Tatad further said that the media have been an unsuspecting purveyor of dubious findings to the detriment of the election campaign and the public.

“The public would have had a better appreciation and understanding of public opinion polling had the media been a little more critical and vigilant,” he said.

Tatad added that in the US, the media normally ask the following 20 questions before publishing the results of any opinion poll:

  1. Who did the poll?
  2. Who paid for the poll and why was it done?
  3. How many people were interviewed for the survey?
  4. How were those people chosen?
  5. What are (nation, state or region) or what group (teachers, lawyers, Democratic voters, etc.) were those people chosen from?
  6. Are the results based on the answers of all the people interviewed?
  7. Who should have been interviewed and was not? Or do response rates matter?
  8. When was the poll done?
  9. How were the interviews conducted?
  10. What about polls on the Internet or World Wide Web?
  11. What is the sampling error for the poll results?
  12. Who’s on first?
  13. What other kinds of factors can skew poll results?
  14. What questions were asked?
  15. In what order were the questions asked?
  16. What about “push polls”?
  17. What other polls have been done on this topic? Did they say the same thing? If they are different, why are they different?
  18. What about exit polls?
  19. What else needs to be included in the report of the poll?
  20. So I’ve asked the questions. The answers sound good. Should we report the results?

“The reason for asking these questions is plain enough: there are good polls and bad polls,” Tatad pointed out. “It appears that every poll should be judged guilty until proven otherwise.”


See full presentation and related documents


February 9, 2010

Former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad today called urgent attention to a Princeton University report showing that voting machines in the United States could be corrupted to commit fraud without leaving any trace of it, and demanded that the suppliers of the voting machines for the May 10 elections demonstrate and guarantee to the public that their machines are free from the same defect.

At the Kapihan sa Maynila, Tatad, who is seeking reelection to the Senate, cited a paper by three Princeton University scientists—Ariel Feldman, J. Alex Halderman and Edward Felten—accompanied by a security demonstration on You Tube, which showed how the Diebold Accu Vote-TS Voting Machine, reputedly the most widely deployed electronic voting platform in the United States, could be easily corrupted by a malicious software.

Although the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to be used by the Comelec in the May elections are different from the paperless Direct Recording Electronic (DRE)  machine studied by the Princeton scientists, their internal infrastructure, which reads and records the vote, appears to be the same, and probably with the same vulnerabilities.

“The public may need an iron-clad guarantee, and the most convincing scientific demonstration from Smartmatic that the PCOS machines are not as vulnerable as the Accu Vote-TS machines,” Tatad said.

Experiments conducted by the three scientists, using a demonstration software that carries out a vote-stealing attack, and a demonstration virus that spreads from machine to machine, showed the following:

1)      Malicious software running on a single voting machine can steal votes with little if any risk of detection. The malicious software can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine, so that even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss.

2)      Anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute. In practice, poll workers and others often have unsupervised access to machines.

3)      AccVote-TS machines are susceptible to voting-machine viruses – computer viruses that can spread malicious software automatically and invisibly from machine to machine during normal pre- and post-election activity.

After injecting a vote-stealing software inside the machine, the scientists simulated an election with George Washington and Benedict Arnold as candidates. Four voters voted for Washington, and one voted for Arnold. When the machine printed out the results, however, Arnold got three votes, and Washington two.

And because the vote-stealing software was constructed to delete itself after the operation, nothing could be found inside the machine to show that the count was fraudulent or wrong, the Princeton study showed.

“The Comelec  should take note of the findings of the study which showed that the machine could perform well during logic and accuracy tests when fed with “pretend ballots” in a “pretend election”,  but that anybody could inject a malicious software into the memory card to corrupt the machine without leaving any sign  that the memory card had been replaced,” Tatad said.

Tatad had earlier called on the Comelec to institute a double-track tally of the election results—one automated, the other manual, to serve as a possible backup in case of failure of the automated system, and to form part of the records to help settle possible questions concerning the accuracy of the automated count. The senatorial candidate expressed full confidence in the board of election inspectors in every precinct to carry out the job.