Sunday, May 5, 2013

not a cockfight

Last month, someone asked who I'm voting for in the upcoming senatorial election. I rattled off a few names, most of them not very popular or familiar. She then remarked, "You're not voting for X? He's number one in the surveys right now."

Hoo boy.

Click to enlarge.

Summary of Randy David's article about preelection surveys in easy-to-understand bullet points:

1. "Nothing seems to matter except sheer media exposure and possession of a familiar name in order to score high."

2. "The science of surveys resides not in the opinions they synthesize but in the methodology that is used to gather these. It is pointless to try to figure out the logic behind the preferences they report. There is none."

3. "The personal commitment behind the survey preferences cannot be very high, which is probably why they tend to manifest wide swings over short periods."

4. "It is thus disturbing that preelection polls have acquired a place in our electoral process that seems to outweigh all other forms of public opinion."

5. "In the absence of public forums in which party programs are sharply differentiated and issues are debated, what stands out as the sole reason for voting for a particular candidate is that he or she ranks high in the surveys."

6. "An intelligent electorate should know better than to be influenced by survey results. That would be akin to trading one's own judgement for the unexamined 'likes' of a randomly chosen crowd."

So, assuming that there is some form of intelligence out there, why are the election outcomes almost always identical to the preelection survey results? Mr. David offers a theory: "It is always easier to go with public opinion than to contradict it. Indeed, one would have to have strong convictions to go against public opinion, or tradition."

I disagree. If there's anything that Filipino voters possess in stupendous quantities, it is strong convictions. The problem is that these convictions are geared towards a political candidate's "winnability" and not his/her qualifications. Whether or not a chosen candidate can defeat his/her opponents-- through nothing other than strength of personality, it seems-- is the subject of endless roadside debates and dinner table conversations. This is why elections have become one of our nation's favorite pastimes: Because it is so similar to a cockfight, another favorite pastime.

Enough already. Just vote for the people who will do the job, not the people who are most likely to win. Try it, you might like it.

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