By Franco Mabanta
Today we’re breaking down the recent Presidential poll results from three highly reputable survey providers — (1) Publicus, (2) a company we’ll refer to in the meantime as “Anonymous”, and (3) Pulse Asia.
Sidenote 1: The reason we’re referring to the second survey provider as “Anonymous” is because this company has yet to release their results and I’d like to be respectful to the pace they choose to keep. Once they finally publish, I’ll edit this piece top to bottom and plug their company name into every Anonymous mention.
Sidenote 2: Anonymous uses a new online polling technique that incentivizes respondents by giving them website rewards for partaking in their surveys. They’ve addressed the troll farm issue (an issue, unfortunately, that’s grossly/hideously rampant here in the Philippines and in the US) by acting as a mere data provider for a separate survey company which — in turn — acts as its public face, allowing for both entities to function autonomously, with the data provider shielded/protected from attacks, fakes and bots. The whole enterprise is pretty clever.
Sidenote 3: All three polls used different candidate lists with different methodologies, none more important to keep in mind than this — the first two (Publicus and Anonymous) were online polls, while the third (Pulse) was conducted face-to-face in spite of the Covid pandemic, which is admirable.
We’ll analyze all three polls at the end and see what they mean for 2022 and beyond.
Here we go. The initial poll results for the next President of the Philippines:
Publicus (1,000+ respondents; online)
1. Isko Moreno
2. Sara Duterte
3. Leni Robredo
4. Bongbong Marcos
5. Manny Pacquiao
Anonymous (10,000 respondents; online)
1. Isko Moreno
2. Sara Duterte
3. Manny Pacquiao
4. Bongbong Marcos
5. Leni Robredo
6. Grace Poe
7. Ramon Ang
8. Bong Go
Pulse Asia (1,200 respondents; in-person)
1. Sara Duterte
2. Isko Moreno
3. Manny Pacquiao
4. Bongbong Marcos
5. Bong Go
7. Leni Robredo
8. Ping Lacson
9. Alan Cayetano
10. Cynthia Villar
• There’s one very clear reason as to why Isko topped the first two surveys but then lost to Sara in the third and here it is: the first two surveys (Publicus and Anonymous) were facilitated online; the last one (Pulse) was done face-to-face.
Why does that matter, you ask, particularly for Isko?
I casually sent the results of the online surveys last week to personal friends who I trust and whose political opinions have always mattered a great deal to me — the great and powerful Mike Acebedo Lopez (very close to both the Duterte and Marcos families), the lovely David Nugent (a good friend and colleague to the Isko camp), three people in Manny’s inner circle, and the universally adored/appreciated Senator Sonny Angara.
What I pointed out to each of them is that Isko was triumphant over the pack of Presidentiables in the first two polls not only because he’s a political star, but because (perceptively and fundamentally) he’s a bona-fide internet star as well. In fact, if we’re speaking within the context of national allure, “Yorme” was an internet star primarily before anything else. Yes, he owns nationwide appeal across all demographics, and deservedly so, but — in my opinion — the master fuel behind his PR engine comes from his Facebook presence and digital MSM communications, helmed (as we can all see) by one of the most effective political PR teams operating in the Philippines at the moment. Isko got national acclaim by tactically blowing up online before anywhere else. No, none of it was by accident.
For clarity: when David tells me that Isko, without all the fluff and fireworks, is the “real deal”, I completely trust it. I buy what’s being sold. Yes, I had my doubts in the beginning (I think all strategists/operators worth their salt did), but I now believe in Isko Moreno Domagoso and feel no shame saying it out loud.
But it is crucial to note that what the PR machine of the ultra-popular Mayor of Manila has been able to encapsulate and imprint upon millions of Filipinos in the year and a half since getting him elected is a perfectly honest, appealing, evolving series of social media snapshots of one of our country’s most talented and fine-tuned politicians.
President Trump’s base is the Right. Former President Obama’s base is the Left. President Duterte’s base is the DDS. BBM’s base is the Marcos Loyalists. Leni’s base is the Yellows.
Isko’s base (outside of the Manilenyos) is generally undefined, but heavily constricted to people with smart phones and internet access.
So what happens when a company like Pulse Asia conducts an in-person survey that opens the polls to people who are barely ever on Facebook or never on it at all?
The answer is Sara Duterte. Sara Duterte happens.
The daughter of the most loved Filipino President of all time happens.
• Let’s dive a little deeper. As mentioned in my previous breakdown of the 2022 Senatorial elections, I’m a believer in the credibility of both Publicus and Anonymous, but the reason why I’ve always maintained that in-person polls are superior to online polls is because of the potent and important aspect of randomization. I’ve yet to see a survey provider properly randomize online.
For example, if Rappler asks its readers if the PCOO or the DOH are competent government agencies, 99% of its readers will say no. Conversely, if the great and powerful Trixie Cruz-Angeles asks her followers if Prof. Richard Heydarian can’t write, 101% of her followers will say yes. Why? Because your results (or the parameters of your results) are defined beforehand by the leanings/biases of your pre-established audience.
My Swiss friend Louis Perron is known to most as the best survey provider in the world. If I remember correctly, he’s produced polls for everyone from Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton to Mar Roxas and BBM. The reason why he’s EXCEPTIONAL at generating accurate results is because he’s willing to go to the far flung villages in rural provinces to meet people who don’t have internet access or cell phones and ask them in person how they’ll vote. This process is extremely taxing, but it’s absolutely beneficial if the goal is precision.
That said, I’m completely open to being proven wrong by the new methodology of Anonymous, particularly since one of the company’s intelligent owners has successfully been able to defend their processes to me time and again.
• Unlike in the US, the principal division when compartmentalizing Filipino voters has little to do with race, gender or religion. The principal division (for better or worse) is found along a spectrum of how much money a voter makes per annum. More specifically, the division is determined by which socioeconomic demographic a voter falls into — socioeconomic demo “A”, for example, is for the wealthiest of folks; socioeconomic demo “E”, on the other hand, is for those who fall beneath the poverty line.
Important to keep in mind that socioeconomic demographics A and B comprise less than 7% of the entire voting population of the Philippines, while socioeconomic demographic D comprises over 80% of all Filipino voters. This is mostly why winning candidates like Lito Lapid and Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr. have had consistent national results throughout the years — their backgrounds and personalities intrinsically appeal to the largest and most dominant voting demo.
• The very obvious Sara/Bong Go quandary:
In terms of concretizing Sara over Isko for the #1 spot, I think an even bigger factor than the online vs. in-person survey discrepancy is the existence of Senator Bong Go in the polls.
If you think PRRD is going to allow Sara and BG to run against each other, you are out of your mind. Ever hear political pundits chime in during election cycles and bust out the term “splitting the votes”? It’s a frequently used figure of speech throughout any campaign season. Well, in the history of history, I can’t think of a better (or worse) example of two candidates who would split the votes more overtly than if Sara and BG were to run for the same position.
So the phenomenally influential Duterte contingent has a choice to make — and they have a little over one year to make it.
Four guidelines for the decision:
1. Sara has all of her father’s gravitas; all of his inherent charisma. She is owner to a commanding presence, an intangible magnetism both through a screen and in person. You can’t teach that stuff — you gotta be born with it.
But does she have the temperament and the poise to carry the Presidency?
2. Bong Go has the temperament and the poise. He’s calm under pressure, calculated in attack, and rarely rattled by anything. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen the former SAP rattled at all.
But does he have the gravitas and charisma, the magnetism and the presence to even WIN the Presidency?
3. Between your answers to questions #1 and #2, which do you think is more important? To me, it’s clear.
4. Lastly, something to consider: If BG drops out, all of his votes will go to Sara. If Sara drops out, some of her votes will go to BG.
• Is it time for a billionaire to take over?
I assume that most people didn’t even have him on their radar, but in many political circles, the rumor of Ramon S. Ang taking a swing at the Presidency has been rather prevalent for months.
How? Puzzle pieces.After my three winning national clients took their Senate seats in 2019, all their PR stopped. They (understandably) decided to take a break and just chill for a bit.
Do you know who had NO CHILL after they won? Isko and Bong Go’s respective PR teams. They kept hammering and hammering and hammering away, both on social and mainstream (and did a great job, too).
Why, you ask, would a newly elected politician do this? Conventional reasoning points towards one thing: ambition. The desire for higher. The intention for more.
Ramon Ang’s PR has shifted from first to third gear in the last calendar year. If he shifts to fifth in 2021 and gets favorable feedback, don’t be surprised if you hear his name being floated for President of the Philippines by powerhouse allies in the political and corporate sectors. I’m all for it, if I’m being honest.
In the US, an American Mayor named Pete Buttigieg ran for President last year (before losing to a comically uninspiring Joe Biden in the primaries). There was a moment on the debate stage that I remember very well. Buttigieg proudly exclaimed on national television that he was the only person at that moment running for President who was not rich. He was the only person on stage who wasn’t a millionaire or a billionaire…to which some people applauded.
I found that instance weird.
Why would they applaud that? Mercy claps? What a bizarre, almost nonsensical way for Mayor Pete to pander to the uninformed everyman, is what I recall thinking. This isn’t about elitism. It’s about common sense. Wouldn’t you want your Commander-In-Chief to have proven that he did well in life before taking on the most difficult job in the world? Let me rephrase: How does one expect us to believe that he could manage a country’s entire economy if he can’t even take care of and grow his own finances?
Thankfully Mr. Ang has done much better in life than Mayor Pete. The San Miguel mogul is currently worth over US$2 billion.
And do you know what that money smells like to me? Less corruption. Plus, he’s a stone cold capitalist — which is fantastic.
Lastly, call me shallow, but one of the essential things I’ll be looking for in our next President is someone who can stand next to Putin, Trump and Xi and hold his or her ground like Rody Duterte did throughout his term. Upon intently looking at every Filipino Presidentiable on these three survey slates, I find a very convincing argument for Ramon Ang holding his ground with the most gravity upon finding himself standing across the three global dynamo strongmen
.• I had balanced, genuine advice for VP Leni Robredo‘s camp, as I think I’ve the found the main error in their analysis of her overall messaging, but — alas — I simply couldn’t find a way to word it here in a manner that would be received as objective. So I’ve decided to leave it be and not comment. If they continue down this path carrying all that heavily miscalculated baggage, the math is clear. And I think most people already know how the story ends.
• Bongbong Marcos might have the most challenging choice to make among all the serious Presidentiables. There’s obviously a bevy of other factors to this equation, but — in as far as I can tell — two of the biggest points are (1) the average age of the Marcos Loyalists and (2) the indisputable fact that he’s in a very rare and masterly position to seize a Senatorial seat in 2022 by simply pointing at a chair (any chair), rather than going for Malacañang and risk being out of government for 12 straight years. Regardless, the data is in and it is irrefutabe that majority of Filipinos would be elated see him serving again on a national stage, particularly if he leans into the Senate. Tough decision.
• Odds of Alan Peter Cayetano becoming President in 2022 is less than 1% at this point.
• When the great and powerful Juan Ponce Enrile — widely considered the most intelligent Filipino of the last hundred years — ran for Senate in 2019, I asked him who he thought would win the Presidency in 2022. Was it Sara or BBM?
Without missing a beat, JPE — in all his wisdom and experience — confidently said, “Franco, don’t underestimate Manny Pacquiao.”
It blew my mind back then because NO ONE had the Pacman on their Presidential radars yet. (I have the whole interview on HD video, by the way.) And now here we are. Senator Manny P, first out of the gates, first to announce his candidacy to be the next President of the Philippines. Not only is Enrile a genius; he’s also a prophet.
My good friend Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri, fresh off his big win this week as the #1 Senatoriable for 2022, told us privately that the only reason he topped the polls is because Manny’s running for President.
I was giving free strategies to Manny’s people just last week at a birthday party and told them that all the great work he’s doing for the military and the Department of Education are awesome, but the two most important things for his bid in 2022 are when he fights this year and next year because it gives him a distinct and proficient advantage of legally campaigning ahead of everyone else. Zero crime nationally, zero traffic — all eyes on him.
The Conor McGregor fight, although recently derailed, would have been perfect as that was a sure win for Manny against a SUPERSTAR fighter who the world knows and loves as much as they know and love him.
In terms of straight-up political strategy, no other fight would have moved the needle more for his campaign. No other fight has the potential to generate more value than an Ireland vs. Philippines narrative with two universally admired patriots representing their countries. If played correctly, imagine how profoundly inspiring that image would be for the voters of socioeconomic demographic D.
Yes, there’s a sense of urgency for Sara/BG in that they get to ride the wave (or tsunami) of the most popular President in our history, and I suppose there’s also a sense of urgency for BBM because of the age of his base, but no other Presidential hopeful NEEDS to run more in 2022 than MP. His fighting career will have long been over if he waits another six years.
• Cynthia Villar is interesting, although unlikely. At the very least, it makes for a cool visual: The richest man in the country with the #1 Senator in the House. Last time we saw a power couple that elevated was in the 70’s.
• So is this a two-horse race? Of course not. A year and a half away, I see five horses with a real shot at Malacañang.
I did my painstaking best to interpret the data as bias-free as possible.
Let’s keep in mind that apart from Senator Pacquiao, there have been precisely zero people who’ve committed to a Presidential bid, that a year and a half is a lifetime in politics, and that anything can happen from now till election day.
Our team handled 11 candidates in the 2019 elections; 10 of them won, three became Senators. A 91% win rate that we’re quite proud of. (Although I still believe the amazing JPE — our only loss — was cheated.)
If you’re a hardcore political nerd, too, and looking for further breakdown of the data involving cities, provinces, regions, OFWs, socioeconomic demographics, genders, religions, ages, etcetera and are wondering why they’re not being divulged, it’s simple: national strategists don’t give that stuff out for free.
See you guys at the next analysis and ultimately in 2022!
Everything You Need To Know (For Now) About the 2022 Philippine Senatorial Elections: