Noynoy’s Relatives and Cohorts Behind SWS, Pulse Asia

May 6, 2010

SENATORIAL candidate Francisco “Kit” Tatad cast doubt on Wednesday on the integrity and fairness of SWS and Pulse Asia poll surveys following his discovery that the two firms are directed and owned behind the scenes by relatives and associates of Noynoy Aquino.

Tatad bared a research paper and SEC documents that showed members of Aquino’s family and former associates of President Corazon Aquino as directors or stockholders of the corporations.

Two prominent cousins of Noynoy are named in the documents: Rafael Cojuangco Lopa and Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco. Lopa is a director and president of Pulse Asia until last year, when he resigned to camouflage the firm’s support for Noynoy’s bid for the presidency.

Tonyboy Cojuangco bankrolled the setting up of Pulse Asia in 1990.

Tatad branded as unusual the presence of former DPWH secretary Jose de Jesus (under the Aquino administration) as an incorporator and director in both firms. “This suggests that there was a plan from the beginning by the Aquinos to control public opinion polling in the country,” he said.

With respect to the survey practicioners in the firms, Tatad pointed out an overlapping of names in the ownership. Felipe Miranda, Rosalinda T. Miranda, Gemino H. Abad and Mercedes R. Abad appear in SEC records as founders and/or stockholders of both SWS and Pulse Asia.

Mercedes R. Abad is the president of TRENDS-MBL, which has been conducting the field research for both SWS and Pulse Asia until recently.

The details of the interlocking directorships in the survey firms were first disclosed by Prof. Alfredo Sureta in a paper released in December 2009, but only brought to light in the Internet last week. Sureta called for the establishment of polling firms not owned by an avid Aquino supporter or an Aquino relative to “enhance not only the credibility of the science of polling in the country but also allow for a better flow of information to the voting public on the agenda and platforms of the candidates.”

Tatad said that the new revelations on ownerships/directorships add to the many doubts about SWS and Pulse Asia, which have failed to comply with the election law in providing information on how they conduct their surveys and come up with their numbers.

“We have to wonder, given this new information, whether the plan to elect Noynoy Aquino to the presidency was one big plot from the beginning, involving the survey firms,” he said.


Tatad Asks COMELEC Sanction vs Pulse Asia, SWS

April 28, 2010

Senatorial Candidate Francisco “Kit” Tatad formally asked the Commission on Elections en banc this Wednesday to enforce the Fair Election Act (Republic Act No. 9006) against Pulse Asia, SWS and other polling firms for not complying with the law’s provisions on election surveys. (See Letter to COMELEC En Banc HERE)

The former senator pointed out that the law requires polling firms and media organizations to fully disclose the identities of survey sponsors and to open their data and survey methods to candidates, political parties and the COMELEC whenever survey results are published or reported.

Tatad pointed out that Pulse Asia has repeatedly refused to disclose the sponsors of its surveys on the grounds that their contracts are “confidential.” “This is an election offense,” he said.

He also complained of the refusal of SWS to provide full information about its surveys, including questionnaires, methodologies and sponsorships, despite repeated written requests. “This is also an election offense,” he said.

Tatad said that the controversy over the surveys can only be resolved through immediate and decisive COMELEC action because the survey firms have become more brazen in releasing highly doubtful survey results.

He cited the unbelievable claim of SWS that it was able to conduct three nationwide surveys in the span of 28 days: one on March 19-22, a second one on March 28-30, and a third one on April 15-17.  “This is impossible to  do in our archipelagic and multilingual country,” he said. “Even one survey per month is a daunting task.”

He said all this only proves that the surveys are being manipulated for candidates who are paying for them. “All the contracts for the conduct of surveys should be disclosed so that the public will know who and what are really behind the surveys,” he said. #

Comelec Urged to Sanction Pulse Asia, SWS, etc.

April 23, 2010

SENATORIAL candidate Francisco “Kit” Tatad has challenged  the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to  sanction  the opinion polling firms and  media establishments for publishing and reporting pre-election surveys without disclosing their sponsors and other necessary information as required by Republic Act 9006, or the Fair Election Act of 2001.

At the same time, Tatad urged all presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates who are skeptical about the opinion polling of Social Weather Stations, Pulse Asia and other polling firms to demand that said firms open all their polling records for inspection, copying and verification, as authorized by law.

Section 5.2 of RA 9006 provides that  during the election period, any person, natural as well as juridical, candidate or organization who publishes a survey must likewise publish the necessary material information about  it  to enable the public to determine its reliability.

This information includes full disclosure of the name or names of the person, candidate, party or organization who commissioned or paid for the survey, and the survey methodology used, including the number of individual respondents and the areas from which they were selected, and the specific questions asked.

The law also provides  that the survey, together with the raw data gathered to support its conclusions, shall be available for inspection, copying and verification by the Comelec or by a registered political party or candidate or any Comelec-accredited citizens’ arm.

Tatad said the polling firms have been more interested in manufacturing public opinion in favor or against certain candidates, instead of measuring actual opinion.  He was particularly critical of the polling firms’ practice of  selling to candidates sponsorships of the surveys and the right to introduce their own questions, but without disclosing to the public their individual identity.

Pulse Asia says the matter is covered by a “confidentiality” agreement.  But Tatad says the fair election law requires them to disclose the names of candidate sponsors of the surveys.

Moreover, “it is an election-related expense which every candidate is required to report to the Comelec. It is also part of the polling firm’s income which must be reported when paying taxes,” Tatad said.

The former senator said that it is possible the pollsters “are selling not only the right to participate in the survey but also the right to appear in the ratings.”  This could be the explanation why some sitting senators who are widely ridiculed as completely useless Senate furniture are still rated as ‘popular’, and some nationally  known solid personalities do not figure in the charts at all.

Tatad was the first candidate to openly criticize  SWS and Pulse Asia for using “quota sampling” and “face-to-face interviews” after  these methods had been  abandoned in the United States, where over the years leading pollsters had made serious miscalls in the  presidential elections.

Several presidential candidates, notably Senators Richard Gordon and Jamby Madrigal, have since joined in criticism of local pollsters and their surveys. Some Filipino statisticians and survey science experts have also joined the issue. The tabloid press has run headlines and editorials about it, in stark contrast to the mainstream press which has not given it as much space.

Quoting American polling experts, Tatad also faulted the local pollsters for using the old  hypothetical question—-“If elections were held today, whom would you vote for, among the named candidates?” He said  the question compels even the undecided to give a “top of the head” answer;  that is why it is called  a “forced-choice question” which suppresses and distorts  the real numbers of  “undecided.”

US expert David Moore, a former Gallup vice-president, says that the practice leads to survey firms manufacturing public opinion instead of measuring it.

Tatad has accused  the polling firms of biasing their surveys to suppress  the torrid expressions of popular support that PMP presidential candidate, former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada has been getting  in all parts of  the country.

“This is why in every mammoth rally we have I always ask the crowd, whether they had been surveyed by anyone, and whether they knew of anyone who knew anyone who knew anyone who had been surveyed at all.  The  answer to this is always a great no,” Tatad said.

Tatad questioned the ability of the polling firms, notably SWS,  to come up with nationwide surveys almost within one week of each other, when independent experts maintain that one such survey normally takes two to three months to finish.

In its latest survey, SWS put the size of “undecided” at four to five percent, although in 1998, it said that one out of every voters remained undecided until election day,  while in 2004, 12 percent remained undecided and another 12 percent uncommitted until election day.   No explanation was offered for the statistical change, he noted.

Tatad said he may have found a “smoking gun” to support his charge of manipulation when someone called a radio program (Karambola) on DWIZ in Manila last week to report that an SWS interviewer in Cebu was asking his “random respondents” to choose between Manny Villar and Noynoy Aquino for president, and that when he protested  there were ten candidates to choose from, he was told that the choice had been narrowed down to two.

“It’s really a crooked business,” Tatad said.  He recalled that in 1992, upon his election to the Senate as a pro-life candidate, Mahar Mangahas of SWS showed a senators’ workshop the alleged results of a survey showing that any senator who did not support the government’s family planning program (now called “reproductive health”) would not get reelected.

“Not only was I reelected with flying colors in 1995, I also became Senate majority leader to five Senate presidents.  But that SWS presentation  had a lasting impression on me, on how polling could be used to promote certain advocacies.  Mangahas has not deviated from that course since.  He is still playing the same ugly game,” Tatad, whose pro-life work has expanded to the international scene,  added.

“In the 2004 presidential elections, Mangahas came up with an execrable exit poll in Metro Manila  that showed Mrs. Arroyo leading her rival Fernando Poe Jr. all the way. The official Comelec count, however,  showed FPJ taking all of Metro Manila, except for Las Pinas,” Tatad said.

“Despite that scandalous incident, SWS continues to do pre-election polling as though its reputation had never been tarnished,” Tatad lamented.  “In the US, the Literary Digest quietly folded up after it had erroneously predicted the defeat of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Alf Landon in 1932, and the House of Representatives as well as the US Social Science Research Council investigated Gallup, Roper and Crossley after they had unanimously but erroneously predicted that President Harry Truman would lose to Thomas Dewey in 1948,” he pointed out.  #

SWS Manipulating the Public – Tatad

April 14, 2010

Senatorial candidate Francisco “Kit” Tatad accused the Social Weather Stations (SWS) on Wednesday (April 15) of foisting on the public questionable results from two recent surveys that it supposedly conducted within a week of each other in March.

He also charged the poll survey firm with presenting dubious data on undecided and uncommitted voters, which markedly differ from clear trends already established in its own surveys for the 1998 and 2004 presidential elections.

Tatad questioned the capability of SWS to conduct separately, as it reported, its survey for Business World on March 19-22 and the survey for Rep. Ronaldo Zamora on March 28-30.

“For a firm that only started conducting its surveys in-house only a few years ago, SWS would have us believe that it can now conduct a national survey every week,” Tatad said.

“This is incredible and local polling experts say so. The work involves interviewing respondents face-to-face and house-to-house all over our far-flung archipelago, collating the data, and analyzing the results,” he pointed out. “In the past, this work usually took three months, with SWS outsourcing the survey to a professional market research firm. Now, overnight, SWS is claiming an unbelievable capability for rapid polling.”

The former senator said that he strongly suspected that SWS did not conduct separate surveys for the two commissioned jobs. “It’s possible that SWS just transferred percentages from one candidate to another to produce the second poll,” he said.

The SWS Zamora survey reported an increase of 1 percent for Villar and 2 percent for Teodoro, and a decrease of 2 percent for Estrada and 1 percent for Gordon, while retaining the same percentage for Aquino when the two survey results are compared with each other.

Tatad also questioned the stark difference in undecided voters between the recent SWS surveys and its concluding surveys for the 1998 and 2004 presidential elections.

SWS reported in its surveys for Business World and Congressman Zamora that the number of undecided is only 4 to 5 percent of voters. This differs considerably from the historical pattern of about a quarter of Filipino voters being undecided just before election day.

“No less than Mahar Mangahas himself reported that in its May 1-4 pre-election survey for the 2004 election, there were 12% undecided and 12% uncommitted,” Tatad said.

He also quoted Mangahas’ own statement that “in 1998, one out of every five voters decided on whom to vote for president only on the day of the election itself.”

“Have we Filipinos changed so much and has the country changed so dramatically over the past six years that we are more decided now for the May elections?” Tatad asked. “Or is this a case of the pollster just being more decided and committed?”

The former senator said that the statistical inconsistency is too glaring to be ignored. “The current SWS figures are incredible in light of the fact that historically and in many countries some 25 percent of voters make their decisions on who to vote for during the week of the election,” he said.
He said that the dubious data from the recent SWS surveys reinforce his earlier reports that Philippine election surveys are fatally flawed and should not be allowed to dictate on the May 10 election. #

There’s something wrong about our surveys!

March 2, 2010
Written by J.A. de la Cruz / Coast-to-Coast
Monday, 01 March 2010 21:39
For the nth time, the local political survey firms Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia are under withering scrutiny. Not just by candidates and their political advisers, but by a growing number of observers, including members of academe, who are increasingly concerned about the methods, practices and, yes, the results of these surveys as purveyed by the firms and their adherents.

These sectors are coming around to the view that our local pollsters are doing a great disservice to the public and to the social-science profession by using flawed, even long-discarded, methods in their determination of public opinion, and then issuing the polling results in a skewed, helter-skelter way, without as much as offering the obligatory caveats about their work. They are also being taken to task for their adroit (some suggest deceptive) “marketing” operations as they actively promote their “studies” and seek “sponsors” (subscribers is how these firms call them) to cover the costs of their operations. The critics insist that these firms have taken a larger-than-life role in public life, promoting candidates and advocacies with hardly any accountability at all. They contend that, instead of becoming enhancers, they have become degraders of our democratic aspirations. Having taken roots in our democratic discourse and playing such a key role in the shaping of public opinion, it is time these firms’ own operations are scrutinized and subjected to the rigors of real, factual and scientific research with hardly any room for intervention of any kind from any source. These concerns have become even more telling in the run-up to the May elections as the country’s future gets so closely interlinked to the “polled” fortunes of the candidates. Instead of getting scrutinized for their views, their past performance and their character and standing in private and public life, the public is fed with, at best, less-than- exemplary polling results. That these firms have had their own share of “boo-boos” in the past makes such a scrutiny even more necessary and urgent at this time.

Tatad’s view

Comebacking Sen. Kit Tatad, who has been a victim of flawed survey results in the past, has actively sought greater transparency and accountability on the part of SWS and Pulse Asia. In our regular Kapihan sa Sulô forum last Saturday, Tatad asked that these firms refrain from surveying and purveying the results in the meantime until they can clear themselves, as it were, from past mistakes and indiscretions. Said Tatad: “SWS should first explain its fatally flawed exit poll of the 2004 elections in Metro Manila before it conducts yet another opinion poll related to the May 10 elections. For its part, Pulse Asia should disclose to the public how many candidates have paid how much 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.

“On May 11, 2004, within hours of the close of balloting, SWS announced that the incumbent President Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo got 31 percent of the votes in Metro Manila as against opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr., who reportedly got 23 percent. The exit poll, commissioned by ABS-CBN, was conducted in the homes of 528 voters in the National Capital Region [NCR]. However, when the official Commission on Elections count came, Mr. Poe took the NCR with 1,452,380 votes or 36.67 percent of the votes, while Mrs. Arroyo got 1,049,016 votes or 26.46 percent of the votes. Mr. Poe won in all Metro Manila cities and towns except Las Piñas, where he lost by a mere 1,876 votes.

“This 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 in the hands of Alf Landon in 1932, and George Gallup’s, Archibald Crossley’s and Elmo Roper’s common error in predicting President Harry Truman’s defeat in the hands of Thomas Dewey in 1948. Why so? Because while the American pollsters had erred in their respective pre-election surveys, the best of which could never be completely free from any mistake, SWS had messed up in an exit poll, where no professional pollster should.

“Similarly, I 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. The politicians’ names have never been published, and neither have the ‘rider’ questions,” Tatad said. (Note: Actually, both firms and others conducting political surveys should make this disclosure).

Pulse Asia’s caveats

Indeed, these firms, being the leaders in the field, have a duty to make as much of their operations (and connections) open to the public. To his firm’s credit, Pulse Asia president Prof. Ronnie Holmes gamely answered questions about their polling methodology, their practices and, yes, their “subscribers” and other “clients.” Holmes noted that their methods and practices have adhered closely to the requirements of polling, and they are an active member of the Philippine Social Services Council, which ostensibly monitors their members’ operations as the umbrella organization of this largely self-regulatory body. He also noted that their records are open to public scrutiny and they will be open to discussions with the media and other sectors as far as their undertakings, including “marketing” activities, are concerned.

He also agreed with our other guest, veteran journalist Yen Makabenta, that it may, indeed, be necessary to change the survey question in the most sought-after issue at this point—who would one vote for president if the elections were held today—as such effectively suppresses the actual percentage of undecided. Quoting pollster David Moore, Makabenta noted that such “vote choice” (a forced choice) question glosses over voter indecision, which is likely in an election campaign as a good number of voters actually make their choice right at the precinct level or just days or hours before going to the polls. “The worst sin in poll reporting,” Moore noted, “was hedging”—which is what happens with a “forced choice” question. He also noted that in the US, the undecided can range from a low of 20 percent to as high as 70 percent—depending on how far away the election is.

Curiously, with three months to go before the May elections, both SWS and Pulse Asia are reporting very low “undecided,” i.e., from 2 percent to 4 percent only—almost negligible by polling standards. Yet, these results, which gloss over the huge “undecided,” are reported as if cast in stone, bringing the candidates and their advisers to moments of ecstasy or exasperation, depending on which side one is on. To avoid this skewed, if not totally discardable, question, Moore suggested a new question which, to my mind, better captures the opinion or sentiment of a respondent. Translated into the coming polls, it should read: “In the May election, who would you vote for president, or haven’t you yet made up your mind?” And to those who made a decision, a rider to be asked should be: “Is that a firm choice, or could you change your mind before Election Day?”

Moore’s point

In his book, The Opinion Makers, Moore makes the startling conclusion that pollsters “do not measure public opinion, they manufacture it.” He anchors this contention on the practice of polling firms to gloss over “voter indecision” during an election campaign. Moore notes:

“There is crisis in public-opinion polling today, a silent crisis that no one wants to talk about. The problem lies not in the declining response rates and increasing difficulty in obtaining representative sample, though these are issues the polling industry has to address. The problem lies, rather, in the refusal of media polls to tell the truth about those surveyed and about the larger electorate. Rather than tell us the essential facts about the public, they feed us a fairy-tale picture of a completely rational, all-knowing and fully engaged citizenry. They studiously avoid reporting on widespread public apathy, indecision and ignorance. The net result is conflicting poll results and a distortion of public opinion that challenges the credibility of the whole polling enterprise. Nowhere is this more often the case than in election polling.”

So there. To those who have taken on the polling firms as oracles, and their surveys unvarnished truth on the public’s opinion of the various candidates, we can only say: caveat emptor. And let us move on to make those surveys truly reflective of the public pulse, not a skewed or, worse, manufactured one.

Tatad: Local pollsters use discredited techniques

March 1, 2010

BY DAN MARIANO, Manila Times, Monday, 22 February 2010

When a candidate complains about survey results, people usually conclude that he must be a cellar-dweller in the opinion polls. And former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad could be regarded as one such disgruntled aspirant.

A survey done by Social Weather Station (SWS) earlier this month, for instance, placed Tatad at a “significant distance” from the leading pack of senatorial candidates. The casual observer, thus, is tempted to dismiss his complaints against surveys in general as just another case of “sour grapes.”

Tatad, however, is not your typical Aesopian fox badmouthing the fruit that are beyond his reach. What he presents is an obviously well-researched critique that should give the public—especially the news media—pause.

Surveys do tend to influence, if not how people vote, then certainly how they size up candidates.

Aspirants who do well at the start of the race tend to get more attention—and conceivably more financial support from quarters that see campaign contributions as wagers on future political accommodation and favors.

As experience tells us, it does not exactly enhance the democracy that we have been trying to erect for the past several decades. Instead of making informed choices and wise decisions, the bulk of voters come under the deceptive spell of popularity.

During a media forum last week, Tatad described local surveys as “fatally flawed.” He said the outfits that conduct surveys in the Philippines use misleading methodologies, which have long been discredited in more advanced democracies.

“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 at the Fernandina media forum last week.

These “flawed” methodologies include: face-to-face interviewing, quota and cluster sampling, loaded and lengthy questionnaires, trial heat polls and pick 3 polling, which are all stated in the methodologies disclosed by the pollsters.

Face-to-face interviewing is the standard method used by pollsters—such as SWS and Pulse Asia—for eliciting responses from survey participants. Respondents are tracked door-to-door and interviewed by the pollsters’ field personnel. They are asked to respond to the preset questionnaire and shown pictures of candidates.

In the past, personal or face-to-face interviewing was viewed as an appropriate method for conducting opinion surveys because it ostensibly allowed the pollster to select the “right” respondent to be interviewed.

After major flops, however—notably, the erroneous forecast of victory for New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey over incumbent President Harry S. Truman in the 1948 US presidential race—this survey method was discarded, Tatad recalled.

Reputable pollsters in the United States have now totally abandoned face-to-face interviewing, he added.

Tatad cited experts Chava Frankfort-Nachnias and David Nachmias who in Research Methods in the Social Sciences wrote: “The very flexibility that is the interviewer’s chief advantage leaves room for the interviewer’s personal influence and bias.”

Tatad also quoted pollster Kenneth Warren who in his book, In Defense of Public Opinion Polling, wrote: “The cons of door-to-door interviews far outweigh the pros . . . Because of the sensitivity or personal nature of some questions, interviewers, because they were placed in face-to-face situations, have admitted that they sometimes guessed or fudged responses . . . These problems are a major source of bias in personal interviews, causing significant contamination of the poll data.”

These methodological and practical problems according to Warren have doomed face-to-face interviews.

By 1980 in the United States, nobody wanted to pay for this type of surveys which were “fatally flawed and grossly inaccurate anyway.”

But as Tatad noted, this “seems to have had no persuasive effect on our local pollsters.”

Another glaring weakness in local surveys, according to Tatad, is the extensive and general use of quota sampling to create a supposedly “representative sample” of the Philippine population.

In quota sampling, survey respondents are picked from different types of people—such as by age, sex, religion, income—and various predetermined areas, like region of the country, as well as urban or rural.

“This method is the most familiar form of non-probability sampling. It is supposed to mirror the same proportions in the targeted survey populations, but doesn’t,” Tatad said.

Quota sampling, he added, proved to be an earthshaking failure in 1948 after three leading US pollsters—Gallup, Roper and Crossley—erroneously called the US presidential election in favor of Dewey instead of Truman.

In the United Kingdom, where quota sampling persisted, it was blamed for the pollsters’ failure to predict Prime Minister John Majors’ victory in 1992.

Nowadays, reputable US pollsters rely almost exclusively on probability random sampling to create a “representative sample,” Tatad said.

“Why then do local pollsters continue to use quota sampling and face-to-face interviewing for their surveys?” Tatad asked. “Why haven’t they adopted probability random sampling, which has protected US opinion polls from using contaminated data?”

Tatad also said that local 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 nonexistent in the local opinion polling industry,” the comebacking 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,” he added.

Tatad further said that the news 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.

Needless to say, Tatad’s critique requires a response of similar detail and authority from SWS, Pulse Asia and other local pollsters. Dismissing it as mere “sour grapes” will no longer suffice.