by Francisco S. Tatad
former Senator and
Senate Majority Leader
Long before the official campaign started, local opinion polling firms had been coming with survey results purporting to show current voters’ preferences of declared and undeclared candidates for the Presidency, the Vice-presidency and the Senate. Because of their frequency and number, these polls have shaped perceptions, here at home and abroad, of the relative standings and chances of the candidates.
Candidates, would-be candidates and political parties have taken these survey results at face value as scientific, accurate and totally above-board. The mass media have passed them on freely withouit critical analysis, and not a small portion of the public appears willing to accept them as gospel truth. Public discussion of the merits of the candidates and their respective political platforms, if any, has thus been set aside in favor of this undivided attention to the surveys.
This gives the polling firms an excessive and unaccountable power they have not earned. There is no guarantee that this power will not be used to tax the public interest; there is, in fact, some doubt that the common good ever figured in the recent surveys. Based on the existing trade literature, not only is the methodology of the surveys fatally flawed, the pollsters have also failed to rise to the high professional and ethical standards of opinion polling in the more advanced countries, notably the United States. Thus, while claiming to serve the public interest, the surveys may have, in fact, only served some special political and commercial interests.
First, that in these surveys 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.
Second, that local pollsters have ignored the strict ethical and professional standards polling associations and professional pollsters elsewhere regard as sacred and inviolate.
Third and finally, that in reporting on the survey results, the media have become an unwitting purveyors of false findings to the detriment of the public and the electoral process. Unsuspecting journalists have failed to ask the necessary questions that in the US and other countries are standard prior to publishing survey results.
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