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Jun 21

Spiral of silence

In his column, The Ateneo and public opinion polling , Mahar Mangahas kept referring to “the spiral of silence phenomenon,” without every actually explaining what it is:

In planning for the first Ateneo-SWS poll, of May 1986, the issue was raised on whether to risk asking whom the respondents voted for in the snap election – suppose most said they had voted for Marcos? I appreciate the Ateneo for agreeing to ask it; the result was that 64 percent said they had voted for Cory Aquino. (The risk was actually small; we didn’t know about the “spiral of silence” phenomenon yet.)

In early 1987, we had to decide whether to do an Ateneo-SWS poll just before the May election, to maximize its potential to predict the outcome, or much earlier, to enhance its value to campaigners. We took the second option. The March 1987 poll found only half of Cory’s senatorial candidates in the winning column; her campaign manager Paul Aquino told his staff that they could not afford to sleep any more. Eventually, with the help of “Cory magic,” 22 of her 24 candidates won. (But critics claimed that the survey failed, because the election outcome was different.)

After the joint project expired, Ateneo and SWS shared the briefing revenues 50-50 as pre-arranged, and then did polls separately. With funding from various foundations, Ateneo did at least six national polls over 1988-1992. In 1992, its post-election poll found some 40 percent saying they had voted for Fidel Ramos, even though he had won with only some 25 percent of the official count – but it was again the “spiral of silence” at work.

Here’s a handy-dandy definition,

The spiral of silence is a political science and mass communication theory propounded by the German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann. The theory asserts that a person is less likely to voice an opinion on a topic if one feels that one is in the minority for fear of reprisal or isolation from the majority.

In a speech he made on May 18, 2000 (the keynote address during the Annual Conference of the World Association for Public Opinion Research, 17 – 21 May 2000, Portland, Oregon, USA), he tackled how not knowing “the spiral of silence” made some survey results curious:

Some of you, perhaps, may recall that Ferdinand Marcos was virtual dictator in the Philippines from September 1972 to February 1986. Opinion polling was very uncommon then. For instance, in 1983 a book of survey indicators, The 1982 Philippine Social Weather Report, by myself and others, was suppressed from publication. In November 1985, when Marcos unexpectedly announced over American TV (the David Brinkley show) that he would hold a so-called ‘snap’ presidential election, he waved on-camera a national opinion poll, done the previous July and publicly reported in August, by the Bishops-Businessmens’ Conference (BBC 1998), an independent civic group, as his basis for expecting to win. He was alluding to a survey item that asked, “How many in this locality would vote for Ferdinand Marcos if he runs for President again?”, to which 53% answered Many or Very Many, and 37% answered Few or Very Few.

No amount of clarification could persuade Marcos loyalists, and even some anti-Marcos elements (to my frustration as the BBC survey director), that the score of 53-37 was NOT a prediction of the vote for Marcos versus whoever. Perhaps Fate decreed that this portion of the poll be misinterpreted so much. More significant survey findings, such as the opposition to legislation by presidential decree, and opposition to detention of persons by presidential fiat, both by 2-to-1, were ignored by the Marcos-controlled media.

Three weeks before the snap election on February 7th, a professional poll commissioned by the TV networks showed a score of 45% for Marcos, 26% for Corazon Aquino, and 29% undecided. In the final week, a poll by Asia Research Organization (Henares 1991), affiliated to Gallup International, found 42% for Aquino and 41% for Marcos, and assigned the 17% undecided to Aquino on account of the fear-factor; but this was not revealed by ARO for 5 years, and the sponsor is still unknown today. In the quick-count of the vote by the National Movement for Free Elections, the winner was Aquino, by 53% to 47%, while in the slow-count by the National Legislature the winner was Marcos, by 54% to 46%. The issue was politically settled by the People Power Revolution and the Marcoses’ flight to Hawaii on February 25. The following May, a joint survey by Social Weather Stations and Ateneo de Manila University asked respondents — after some discussion of the merits of ‘letting well enough alone’ — for whom they had voted in the snap election, obtaining 64% for Aquino, 27% for Marcos, and 9% refusals (Ateneo and SWS, 1986). At that time none of us knew of The Spiral of Silence yet.

Does it exist, now, and is it reflected in the “undecided” in survey results today? And if so, who do the “undecideds” fear? My view is, they reflect tacit but not explicit support for the administration -the fear, in this case, being fear of the majority that opposes the administration and castigates its public defenders.

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  1. taxj

    Carl: When debt servicing eats up to 70% of the national budget, what can a country do?
    ______________

    I guess we better be careful with our questions next time. Now we’re getting a deluge! From SoP: “…reduce the number of congressmen, mayors, and governors.” I think this is rather unconstitutional. Mass murder or genocide is. Hehehe.

    God ordered Noah to build an Ark. This caused the Greet Flood. He denuded mountains. How else could he produce the materials needed for something so big?

    So we think we have nothing? How come we’re losing billions to graft and corruption yearly? The fertilizer and and swine scams are just top of the iceberg!

  2. Karl Garcia

    When debt servicing eats up to 70% of the national budget, what can a country do?

    I miss CVJ, I remember we had an argument if we can do what the Argentines did.
    Nothing happened in that argument, it all started when he reminded us of the “suggestion” of FPJ for debt restructuring.
    Some pundits like Alex Magno laughed at the idea,he said that it would be embarassing.

    Now, with that question of having deficits and having to borrow more so we can pay maturing loans, how can the vicious cycle end.

    The “deluge” from SOP somehow suggests less government with more taxes. If you ask me it is a republican democratic mix.

    But wait a minute even with those line agency departments around, their budgets are already devolved, so the LGUs have the actual say in their budgets, so I guess removing those line agencies would not make any difference.
    Intersting points from SOP,though.

    Re:reducing mayors,gov,etc.
    I remember MLQ3’s noticing of my wish for Quezon province to be split as nothing but “gerrymandering”.

    SOP, they factor in population for the number of congressional districts and sometimes the number of additional towns,cities and provinces.So that is the constraint for your suggestion.

    Lastly, the spiral of silence does not exist in the comment threads.(surveys are different )

  3. Carl

    Ecuador, under Correa, has declared default on its debt and has offered to pay 30 cents to the U.S. $. That isn’t an easy thing to do. The leadership has to be extremely confident about its hold on power, because there will surely be destabilization from many sectors.

    But, when 70% of your expenditures go to one item, debt service, you can be sure that that is where the bottleneck is. All the rest is just sweating the small stuff. Sure, it’s good to cut here and there and establish efficiencies all around. But that 70% is still the mother of all bloodsuckers!

    Now, compared to Erap and to FVR’s last year in power, GMA has juggled our debt rather well. That is one case where the spiral of silence comes in. When it comes to the economy, a lot of folk give GMA credit. They’re not saying things are going great guns, but they’re saying things could be a lot worse. As during Erap’s time, and during Ramos’ last year. It would be too much to say we’ve been “blessed”, as some businessmen would say. But people expected things to be a lot worse, and they aren’t. And, with all the horrible news about the global financial crisis, we do seem to be “blessed” in comparison. Call it managing expectations, lowering the bar, or pure luck. But I’ve noticed more Filipinos have been quite upbeat about their country lately.

  4. PARI

    Can’t we Filipinos separate the Person from the Institution? Maybe that’s our problem? Or the program from the originator?
    As Herbert said thru Paul Atreides in the book Dune, talking to the Fremen people, “Must I cripple myself and you by killing off some of our wisest leaders?” We can’t keep killing leader after leader, it’s a pointless cultural exercise, as Paul critiques.

  5. SoP

    “Carl on Wed, 24th Jun 2009 2:47 pm
    …Now, compared to Erap and to FVR’s last year in power, GMA has juggled our debt rather well…”

    It’s basically a Ponzi scheme. More debt to pay the original debts. National debt has risen disproportionately in GMAs time. Is it manageable? Will it unravel ala Argentina? Only time will tell. Can we be like Ireland, a population with humongous debt per capita but a highly educated populace that pays taxes through the nose? Unlikely. Too many poor uneducated peoples (the eternal source of aspiring middle class that will provide the tax payments to pay that 70% debt and OFWs who will convert those peso BIR revenues into dollars).

  6. SoP

    The Philippines has a vicious circle problem:

    1. The more poor peoples become rich, the more oil needs to be consumed (through increases in electricity and transportation).
    2. The more barrels of oil are imported, the more US dollars are required to buy oil.
    3. The more dollars are needed, the bigger the need to export OFWs to earn those dollars.
    4. We also need to export our agricultural goods to earn dollars.
    5. When OFWs can’t plug the gap, the government borrows more dollars debts.
    6. The agriculture export industry and OFW remittances skews the exchange rate to higher dollar values vs the peso.
    7. The higher the US dollar government debt, the more peso we need to pay those US dollar debts.
    8. The more peso we have to pay (70% of national budget), the poorer we become.

    Does anyone know how to break this cycle? My naivete says kill the debt, slowly and surely, no matter how long it takes.

    Curse our geographic fate that we don’t have oil, the source of all our problems.

  7. SoP

    “Karl Garcia on Wed, 24th Jun 2009 1:56 pm
    SOP, they factor in population for the number of congressional districts and sometimes the number of additional towns,cities and provinces.So that is the constraint for your suggestion.”

    I realize that. The law doesn’t make sense though doesn’t it? I don’t see how the job of 5 congressmen and their paper pushers and bureaucrats can’t be done by one efficient team that can be paid twice the normal remuneration. With modern transportation and telecommunication, I can’t see how one efficient congressman and it’s team cannot reach vast geographical distances and hear those people’s needs. The Philippines is small geographically anyway and the peoples concentrated in small centers, unlike in the US, from which we’ve inherited this congressional system, where geographical areas are vast and peoples diverse.

    It’s not like these congressmen are doing something vital anyway. Most of the time, they’re just sitting on their asses saying yea or ney.

  8. SoP

    I meant “from which we’ve inherited this congressional system, where geographical areas are vast and peoples SPREAD OUT”

  9. supremo

    ‘compared to Erap and to FVR’s last year in power, GMA has juggled our debt rather well’

    GMA is good at juggling but she run out of debt options to juggle. The Japanese government is now rescuing us by issuing the Samurai bonds.

    Cory Aquino was the one who started this juggling mania through the Brady bonds. She could have reduce the debt by sending troops during the first Gulf War. Egypt’s debt was reduce by $20 Billion by just sending troops.

  10. taxj

    SoP: Curse our geographic fate that we don’t have oil, the source of all our problems.
    ____________________________

    Cursing is never a solution, but SoP is right about food production. The ancient formula stlll applies: swords into plows. A debate is on, whether to use saliva or guns against insurgents and separatists. The third, but only sensible option, got waylaid somewhere. Ask Jocjoc Bolante where the funds for farm implements and other inputs went. GMA has the right formula: FIELDS, but… Where is it now? It’s unwise to raise taxes and renege on debts, and lose savings to corruption.

  11. pilipino

    why do we need those tongressmen anyway? for congress we have the senate which oversee the entire republic like the prez (executive) and the supremes (the judiciary). the congressmen are just the source of most of the divisions -the tribal/regional divisions. we have all the governors and mayors who will take care of the locals. give more power to the local government, give more tax shares to the locals like the state tax in tate.

    eliminate the lower house now and forever. this will surely lead to more efficient congress and by extension the republic.

    btw, the proposal of others to divide the country into different independent regions will just do like that – divide the country into regions and promote regionalism, and finally balkanization of rp. we know our culture, kabalen, manong, bisoy and tatang culture, it’s hard for us to unite even with united language -pilipino. filipinos are still wanting to have the bisoy language or the keka language.

  12. d0d0ng

    Pilipino on, “why do we need those tongressmen anyway? for congress we have the senate which oversee the entire republic like the prez (executive) and the supremes (the judiciary).”

    It is the basic principle of representations. Unlike the Philippine senators that do not represent an area, the representatives are elected by area. As the population grows, and so does the number of representatives.

    So there is no way around reducing the number of congressmen. The legislatives will have to rewrite the constitution. And there is no incentive to do that since population is growing and sectoral representation is source of income -pork barrel.

  13. d0d0ng

    The solution to country’s problem is in the hands of the legislators or reprensentatives who can rewrite laws, budgets, etc… In the latest SC decision, the Supremes upheld the constitutionality of additional representatives which forced the hand of the palace to provide money.

    Senate is not entirely opposed to charter change with Pimentel’s introduction of federalism bill which is hanging as opposed by the House, as a matter of retaliation for senate opposition on ConAss bill. In short, Arroyo will be in familiar territory when she get back to the House after 2010 when both Senate and the House will be on the same page of charter change. Arroyo’s advantage is the government machinery behind her party to put more party mates being elected as representatives that can translate to necessary votes to change things.

  14. Carl

    Yes, managing debt is basically a Ponzi scheme. Unfortunately, it isn’t only the Philippines that is guilty of that. The world’s biggest economy, and also the world’s biggest debtor, is the master and guru of Ponzi schemes.

    The whole idea is to borrow from Juan and Pedro to pay Jose, and so on down the line. Eventually, debase currency by creating money, so that $1 borrowed today is worth only 50 cents tomorrow. The borrower still stays ahead.

  15. taxj

    pilipino: “we have all the governors and mayors who will take care of the locals. give more power to the local government, give more tax shares to the locals like the state tax in tate.”
    “btw, the proposal of others to divide the country into different independent regions will just do like that – divide the country into regions and promote regionalism, and finally balkanization of rp.”

    d0d0ng: The solution to country’s problem is in the hands of the legislators or reprensentatives who can rewrite laws, budgets, etc…
    ____________________

    Wow! My sentiments exactly. I have been writing legislators and opinion makers along these lines during the last 3 years. It’s a lonely and seemingly hopeless battle, so far. The right laws, properly implmented, can more than make-up for any shortcomings of the Constitution.

  16. pilipino

    Dodong….

    “It is the basic principle of representations. Unlike the Philippine senators that do not represent an area, the representatives are elected by area. As the population grows, and so does the number of representatives”

    ———-

    That’s the point, my friend. The tongressmen represent each locality, province, city etc. which promotes division. Unlike senators who represent the entire nation similar to prez and supremes. For these three, RP is one, not bicol, not pampanga, not mindanao–it is always Republic of the Philippines.If we will keep the congressmen, why do we need so many of them? We have only one Prez and 15 justices to handle the whole nation?

    Yes, we can’t remove the congressmen right now but since con-con is an everyday topic, let’s keep it alive in our mind and make it a full blown agenda after 2010 election when the time is ripe for the properly selected concon delegates to do all the right moves in changing the constitution.

    Again federalism is BS. Imagine several additional layers of paper pushers–complete set of judiciary, legislative and executive and their cohorts for each federal territory? Who will prevent them from seceding later? It is a backward move and will fragment RP.We know the Filipino mentality, don’t start further division.

  17. d0d0ng

    “If we will keep the congressmen, why do we need so many of them? We have only one Prez and 15 justices to handle the whole nation?”

    It is in the rule and no one can change it except the congressmen. The battle right now is in the Congress.

  18. pilipino

    Dong, I know that. Please read the next paragraph. We need the properly elected constitutional convention delegates to do the right moves after 2010 election –that’s the ideal procedure.

  19. d0d0ng

    Hope for the right thing is weak when an aggressive planner is executing and implementing her envisioned plans.

  20. taxj

    I’m with pilipino for stronger local governments. It’s enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. It’s its saving grace. I’m also with him in his fight against federalism. But, no ConCon for me. It’s too costly and divisive.

    Since a ConCon would necessarily be working under much time and financial constraints, it cannot guarantee a satisfactory handiwork. The “right moves” for you might not be so right ones for others. In contrast, a ConAss of the 2010 elected Congress will have no such impediments.

    With a reinvigorated local governments though, I see no urgent need for a cha-cha. It will carry the country through, whosoever the President might be. And, we will have no need for the services of a Terminator. Let’s stop looking for a pefect Charter. None exists.

  21. pilipino

    we can only have a better republic if early on, we deal with the problems we have identified. we know that congressmen are always machunurin, nagchuchumikap kahit sino ang presidente.why not eliminate them by con amendments or by any legal means.the prez has too much power holding much of the resources for the republic which was a carry -over from fm’s presidential decrees. she hancdles billions of dollars without proper accounting such as intelligence , etc. the porks are the usual root of corruption. the locals are always begging for dole outs from the prez. these are just a few problems we know which could permanently be solved, i think by con amendments.

    have a separate provincial or city tax returns along with yearly national tax returns as in federal and state income tax returns in states- this may help with the finances of locals and free them from begging. it could only be done by con amendments.

    the role of con ass? why give the congressmen the role for eliminating themselves. definitely will not happen. no way jose!

    bottom line, we know most of the problems, SOLVE them ASAP hindi yung maghihintay pa ng pagputi ng uwak.

  22. pilipino

    concon may not be expensive if you think about the billions of dollars being lost in corruption and inefficiency of the gov due to “not so perfect” constitution. so concon after 2010 is the ideal thing to do.

  23. taxj

    pilipino,

    Two main cha-cha targets: parliamentary and/or federalism. None seems to be in your list of priorities.

    Corruption and inefficiency, caused by the Constitution? Is it a plane defect? Or pilot error? Surely there must be other ways to address the issue besides Constitutional reform.

    “Billions of dollars being lost in corruption and inefficency…” And to ConCon as well! You oppose a ConAss because “why give the congressmen the role for eliminating themselves.” Do you really want to eliminate congressmen?

    ConCon is not an ASAP solution. Legislation is. Example: P29 billion for agriculture will be handled by the Secretary of Agriculture. Why not by the LGU’s instead? Do we need a cha-cha for this? Isn’t it just a matter of fund allocation, or an amendment to a law (the local government code?)

  24. pilipino

    yes , i want to eliminate the “lowest house”. parliamentary and federalism are just variations of lower house – both are compost of reps locally elected in their own “feudal” enclaves, the main reasons why rp is still divided in so many ways even after almost a century of being a republic.

  25. taxj

    Just curious. With what would you replace the LH? RP, still divided? How so?

  26. pilipino

    as i have been saying, eliminate the lower house and keep the senate (just increase their number , maybe total of 90 senators elected nationally in a staggered schedule, 30 q 2 years). this will have equal footing with executive (Prez) and judiciary (supremes) — all three will have national mandate.rare useless senators maybe elected just like what we have now but the vast majority of them have coconuts unlike the lap dog tongressmen.

    btw, two important things to eliminate in addition to LH 1. porks 2. political dynasties

  27. taxj

    If elected nationally, all your 90 Senators could come from Luzon. Or even from Mindanao or the Visayas. Taxation without representation! 30 Senators on a ballot? WOW!

    Judciary (supremes)… national mandate? Hindi ko magets.

  28. pilipino

    if 30 senators q 2 years will overwhelm the voters memory, it is easy to reduce it to say 60 total (20 q 2 years)with one time reelection with a total of 12 years senatorial service to rp. actually the list on the ballot does not matter if totally computerized, you can just increase the size of the paper which will be fed in the computer scanner.been voting here for decades with different size of ballots, depending on the issues and number of propositions–we have not encountered a single glitch that will throw out the election results. but i have doubt on the memory of fil voters, they may have a hard time remembering the names of the deserving candidates. however, if the voter truly makes his homework as it should be in all elections, i think there would be no problem.

    taxation without representation? we have only one prez, isn’t it? we did not have a muslim prez, an igorot, a bicolano. the operating word her is “national”, senator, prez or justices may come from any place but the job is always the same –the interest of the whole nation, not for ilocanos alone, not cebuanos, not muslims.

    the supremes? whatever they decide will affect the entire nation, if they are dealing with national issues. well, you know the ramifications of supreme’s decisions.

  29. EJP

    If its fear factor that prompts a spiral of silence, then we should weight the gravity of people’s fear…

    my take is that that people have more to fear from Gloria’s illegitimate government than from the legitimate left.

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