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Poe vs Roxas vs Binay (2)

Election 2016 is now anybody’s game.   The race is a virtual toss-up among Senator Grace Poe, an independent candidate; former Local Governments Secretary Manuel Araneta Roxas of the administration Liberal Party, and Vice President Jejomar Binay of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).     None of the three can consider herself/himself a clear winner, yet. 

Any one of the three can win the largest and most hotly contested and bruising Philippine presidential elections of the century.

The results of the September 2015 survey of the Social Weather Stations support this conclusion.

In the latest SWS survey conducted Sept. 2-5 among 1,200 respondents, Senator Poe emerged No. 1 or winner with a commanding 47 percent of the vote, followed eight points behind by Mar Roxas, 39 percent, and 12 points behind by Binay, 35 percent.

At first glance, an 8- to 12-percentage point advantage seems substantial.   On a voter base of 50 million, 8 percent translates into 4 million votes while 12 percent could mean a 6-million-vote margin.

But the SWS poll has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points—equivalent to 1.5 million votes. Subtract this 1.5 million from 4.0 million and you get just 2.5 million votes.   Subtract 1.5 million from 6 million and you get 4.5 million votes.

 Thus, Poe’s margin over Roxas could be a paltry 2.5 million while her advantage over Binay is only 4.5 million.     These margins can easily be wiped out by an effective public relations gambit or by an efficient machinery.     Both Roxas and Binay have concededly far superior machinery over the fledging campaign so far of Poe.

I added the 47 of Poe, 39 of Roxas, and 35 of Binay to get 121. So 47 of 121 is 39 percent, 39 of 121 is 32 percent, and 35 of 121 is 29 percent.   The total of 39 plus 32 plus 29 is exactly 100.

The resulting ratios cure the SWS survey defect which allows its respondents to name “the three best leaders” to succeed BS Aquino. You vote for only one president, not three.

The differences among the ratings of Poe, Roxas, and Binay become narrower and more realistic—39 percent, 32 percent and 29 percent, respectively.   Poe leads Roxas by just 7 percentage points while Roxas leads Binay by an insignificant 3 percentage points.

 Factor in the 3-percentage-point margin of error and   Poe’s lead over Roxas becomes 4 percentage points (7 minus 3), and Roxas’s lead over Binay is actually nil (3 minus 3).

 A lead of 4 percentage points at this stage of the game is meaningless.   More so is zero – the margin of Roxas over Binay with the 3 percent error margin imputed.

If the same approach is applied to the June 2015 SWS survey results, Poe would have 43 percent, Binay 35 percent, and Roxas 22 percent.   Apply the same approach to the March 2015 SWS survey and Poe would have 38 percent, Binay 44 percent, and Roxas 18 percent.

Poe actually lost ground. She is down 4 points (from 43 percent in June to 39 percent in September).   Roxas has gained dramatically in voter support, by 10 points (from 22 percent in June to 32 percent in September).   Binay has lost only 4 points (from 35 percent to 29 percent), a very manageable, not a worrisome, loss of popularity.   On a voter base of 50 million, 4 points is equivalent to 2 million votes while 10 points or percentage is equivalent to 5 million votes.

In a seesawing electoral battle, with eight months to ago, an erosion or gain of between 2 million and 5 million votes is not that meaningful.

Indeed, vote margins in presidential pre-election surveys can swing wildly and vastly before the final outcome.   Recall the 2010 presidential race.

In the September 2009 pre-election survey of SWS for the 2010 race, then Senator BS Aquino had an awesome 60 percent of the possible vote, Senator Manuel Villar commanded 37 percent, and former President   Joseph Estrada settled with just 18 percent.   

By February 2010, SWS showed Aquino with only 42 percent, down 18 percentage points; Villar 35 percent, down by only two percentage points, and Estrada 13 percent, down 5 percentage points.

The final tally of the May 2010 elections (which is the deciding survey): Aquino 15 million votes or 50 percent (of the total votes among the three); Estrada 9.8 million votes or 33 percent, and Villar 5 million votes or 17 percent. 

 In effect, between September 2009 and the actual elections of May 2010, Aquino lost three million votes, while Estrada gained nearly 5.5 million votes as his share of the vote rose from 18 percent to 33 percent.   Villar slid to a poor No. 3, losing 20 percentage points or almost 6 million votes.

 This experience shows voter support can swing wildly, by 18 to 20 percentage points (or by anywhere from 9 to 10 million votes) between and among the aspirants. 

 In February 2010, Villar could still defeat the widely popular Aquino but he was hobbled by black propaganda, the Villaroyo (Villar-Arroyo) campaign that linked him to the much-despised outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband, Mike Arroyo.

Mar has all the resources and network of the incumbent President BS Aquino III behind him.  The President has at his command a national budget of P3 trillion and a government workforce of more than two million.

One thing all three candidates have in common—a rich campaign war chest—Roxas because of the government, Binay because of vigorous fundraising of the past year and formidable wealth, and Poe because of firm backing by among the country’s richest tycoons and corporations.

All three declared candidates are hobbled by issues that could hamper their campaign or mean their defeat, like in experience and citizenship for Poe, corruption for Binay, and incompetence and insensitivity for Roxas.


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