Tatad tells SWS, Pulse Asia to explain ‘flawed’ surveys

Written by Jonathan Mayuga / Correspondent
Sunday, 28 February 2010 19:43

THE Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia were asked to explain on Saturday their polling “errors and malpractices” before conducting yet another survey related to the May 10 elections.

Former senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad said SWS should explain its “fatally flawed” exit poll of the 2004 elections in Metro Manila, while Pulse Asia should make full public disclosure on the number of candidates that commissioned its services.

Speaking before the weekly forum “Kapihan sa Sulô Hotel,” Tatad said such is the “irreducible minimum ethical and professional requirement” before the two companies should resume their operations, which shape public perceptions on the next presidential election.

Tatad, who claimed to have never commissioned any survey before, said polling firms should be guided by ethical standards or norms because of the nature of the role they play in shaping the mind of the people.

“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.

He recalled that on May 11, 2004, within hours of the close of balloting, SWS announced that the incumbent President Arroyo got 31 percent of the votes in Metro Manila as against the opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr., who reportedly got 23 percent. The exit poll, commissioned by network giant ABS-CBN, was conducted in the homes of 528 votes in Metro Manila.

However, when the official Commission on Elections count came, it was Poe who won in Metro Manila, garnering a total of 1,452,380 votes or 36.67 percent against Arroyo, who got 1,049,016 votes or 26.46 percent of the votes.

Poe, he said, won in all Metro Manila cities and towns, except in Las Piñas, where he lost by a mere 1,867 votes.

Tatad said the gross misreading of the results of the 2004 presidential elections in Metro Manila was far more devastating than the costly error of the Literary Digest in predicting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s defeat against Alf Landon in 1932, and Geore Gallup’s Archibald Crossley’s and Elmo Roper’s common error in predicting President Harry Truman’s defeat against Thomas Dewey in 1948.

SWS, according to Tatad, messed up badly in the 2004 exit poll, when no professional pollster should.

Pulse Asia, meanwhile, should disclose to the public of the services it had “sold” to politicians who are eager to rate in its surveys.

He said the firm has been inviting politicians to commission the company by participating in its surveys at the rate of P400,000 per head, and to introduce “rider” questions about their candidates at P100,000 each. This, he said, is contrary to sound ethical practice.

He added that the politicians’ 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?” he said.

Tatad was referring to the expanded segment of its “Ulat ng Bayan” series, which the firm claims to be “designed to provide an accurate reading of public views and sentiments on the most current national issues and events.”

Speaking during the same forum, Pulse Asia president and managing fellow Ronald Holmes said the company is, in fact, guided by ethical norms like all other poll survey firms.

In fact, he said Pulse Asia often refused clients who wish to “push-poll,” wherein question tend to be leading, which he said is more of a campaign strategy than a survey.

“We adhere to the highest standard and norms in the practice. Our questions are not leading or biased,” he said.

According to Holmes, Pulse Asia’s practice is legal as well as ethical, like any other “market research” commissioned by any company, wherein they are bound to follow or adhere to the “confidentiality clause” of a contract.

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