The Long View: Opportunities hidden in the numbers

The Long View
Opportunities hidden in the numbers

By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:06:00 02/08/2010

YESTERDAY this paper reported there are 50, 723, 734 voters registered for the May 10 elections. These voters will be organized into 329, 389 voting precincts organized further into 75,471 clustered precincts in 37,226 voting centers.

The Comelec expects a relatively high voter turnout – 80 percent or 40.5 million voters. If we use the income classes advertisers and pollsters use, this translates to: 4,057,898 voters from Classes ABC (10 percent of voters); 30, 434, 240 from Class D (75 percent); 6, 086, 848 from Class E (15 percent).

What could this mean in actual votes?

Without fussing with margins of error, the January surveys put Aquino anywhere from 36 percent (Standard), 37 percent (Pulse), 42 percent (SWS); Villar – 35 percent (SWS, Pulse), 36 percent (Standard); Estrada – 2 percent (Pulse), 13 percent (Standard, SWS); Teodoro – 4 percent (SWS), 5 percent (Standard, Pulse); Villanueva  – 2 (all); Gordon – 1 (Pulse, Standard), 2 (SWS); Madrigal – 0.4 (SWS), 0.5 (Pulse), 1 (Standard); De los Reyes – 0.2 (SWS) 0.3 (Pulse), 05 (Standard); Perlas – 0.05 (Pulse) 0.1 (SWS), 0.3 (Standard).

SWS puts the undecided at 2 percent or 811, 579.744 voters, Standard says it’s 5 percent or 2,028,949 voters, and Pulse, 6 percent or 2,434,739.

Pulse has the freshest numbers. If honest elections had been held on Jan. 22-26, the results could have been: Aquino – 15,014,225 votes; Villar – 14,202,645; Estrada – 4,869,478; Teodoro – 2,028,949; Villanueva – 811,579; Gordon – 405,789; Madrigal – 202,894; De los Reyes – 121,736; Perlas – 20,289; and nuisance candidate Acosta of the KBL – 81,157.

Put another way, had the election taken place on the survey dates, over a million votes would have separated frontrunner Aquino from his leading contender Villar.

SWS (Jan. 21-24) has Aquino at 42 percent and Villar at 35 percent, a seven-point difference that translates into a lead of 2,840,529 votes. If the difference is actually 5 percent, the lower end of the margin of error, that’s an Aquino lead of 2,028,949; if it’s 9 percent, the maximum end of the margin of error, that’s an Aquino lead of 3,652,108.

The most recent Pulse Asia poll (Jan. 22-26) puts Aquino ahead of Villar by 2 percent. (With a different base and methods, the Manila Standard Today survey has the same number.) Much has been made of this statistical dead heat, though it actually means – factoring in the margin of error – that the two leading candidates are anywhere from being tied to 2-4 percent apart. So 2 percent of the expected turnout is a 811,579-vote lead for Aquino or the two could be exactly tied; at four percent, Aquino’s lead could be as high as 1,623,159.

In terms of socioeconomic classes, Pulse has Aquino leading Villar (37-22) among ABC; that’s 15 percent of that class or a 608,684-lead in votes. Aquino also leads Villar in Class D (40-34), so that’s a 6-percent lead, meaning, 1,826,054 votes more than Villar; while Villar leads Aquino in Class E (39-31) which means a 9-point lead for Villar or 486,947 votes over Aquino.

This all presumes that if 80 percent do vote, all their votes will be counted, not only properly but also expeditiously.

The problem, of course – in the immortal words of President Macapagal-Arroyo, who moved heaven, earth and Garci to ensure she had a lead of 1 million votes in 2004 – is, ” yung dagdag, yung dagdag.” Plus, as her subordinates might put it, “yung bawas, yung bawas.” There are many ways to do this without even padding or shaving votes once cast.

In the mock polls (a simulation of the voting, counting of votes and transmission of results) over the weekend (involving 50 voters per precinct in a total of nine precincts in Quezon City, Taguig, Baguio, Cebu and Davao), the Comelec proclaimed there was no problem in the counting and transmission.

Overlooked was, considering the tiny numbers participating, the relatively high number of votes that weren’t accepted for counting. In Quezon City, only 46 out of 50 ballots were counted. (Four were rejected, apparently for “improper shading.“) In Taguig, the machine also refused to accept three ballots. Four out of 50 is 8 percent; so let us assume this is a reasonable number of spoiled/invalid ballots to expect from people not following directions. That’s 3,246,318 votes out of the immediate counting and canvassing.

The Comelec earlier put much higher the percentage of voters who might have problems because of the machines – 30 percent, which means it’s preparing for manual counting for 6,086,848 votes.

In either case, if human error alone might put 3.2 million-6 million votes in a grey area (thus requiring further scrutiny and manual counting, with each ballot bogged down in examinations and arguments), then neither of the two leading contenders in a close race could be proclaimed.

As the formal campaign begins tomorrow, Aquino’s lead, while still formidable, gives (a false, I think) impression of being smaller than it actually is when translated into percentages. Villar’s catching up in terms of percentages still has a long way to go when seen in terms of actual votes. On the other hand, neither side can rest easily because neither has a comfortable enough percentage to make them immune to the administration’s ace in the hole.

And what’s the administration’s ace in the hole? It can deny either of the leading contenders victory – unless. Which may be why Gary Olivar has thanked Villar for not hitting GMA; why Press Secretary Jun Icban said that there’s no GMA “kiss of death” despite talk she’s in league with Villar. The enemy of my enemy, the Palace broadly hints, will be my friend.


Here is Social Weather Stations’ Jan. 21-24 report in full; here is Pulse Asia’s Jan. 22-26  report. Mon Casiple has an analysis, while Marocharim Experiment has a generation-specific reflection. For background reading, see PCIJ’s report, Jeckyll-and-Hyde Campaign; John Nery’s The 2010 race is set and  my entry,We, the People: How Candidates view The People as Electors, my columns Brains without bodies (2) and Back to the Future, and Pulse Asia’s February 2009 Survey on the May 2010 Elections: The Undecided in Alphanumeric.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

65 thoughts on “The Long View: Opportunities hidden in the numbers

  1. The better campaigner (not necessarily the better candidate) will win.

    That’s the reality of modern election campaigns.

    Hmmmm, so thats why Ramon Revilla is leading in the senatorial race surveys? we might as well have fielded Hayden Kho…

  2. Ramrod says, “its the wisdom of the majority and the resolve of whoever wins to change for the better, ”

    With 9 candidates slugging it out for the top job, I doubt the winner will be a “majority” candidate.

    Even Erap, touted as the president that was voted into office overwhelmingly, received only a little more than 39% of the votes cast. In other words, almost 61% of voters didn’t want him to be president.

    If the same thing happens come May, winner’s resolve will be seriously put to a test. Very diificult for a minority president to build concensus on a minority mandate.

    That said, FVR did it…

  3. @cusponline… I like your “cognitive dissonance” bit. It’s what I’m trying to say about perceptions and ‘understanding’ of the various demographics on what kind of leaders they like. Even if these attributes are not at all related to the job description of a president, people will still vote for who they relate well too, instead of who is the most capable. These can be exploited by campaigners in order secure that win. All these candidates will spend, all their supporters will pitch in. Now, if someone tells me they are running for public office with no favor to any particular interest group, I’m sure that’s a lie. That said, my choice seems now not about who is saintly and who is evil but who is the lesser evil, or put it bluntly, who is barely evil enough but can get things done. I just shook my head in dismay with that realization.

  4. UP n, you are still not carefully reading what Noynoy is proposing, through taxation strategy specifically, to address the “looming fiscal crisis.”

    There’s nothing in what’s being proposed which states that taxes will be reduced.

    The stated approach clearly expresses that because of the looming crisis the government will REFRAIN from: 1) imposing new taxes and 2) increasing tax rates. Such an approach is apparently a view to “(transforming) our country into one where we have lower tax rates enjoyed by all.”

    The resultant regime of a “universal low tax rates” is expected “to encourage entrepreneurs and enterprises to invest and create jobs in any industry.”

    And because of the expected increased productive activitie, more revenues are hoped to be generated for the State without the imperative of imposing new taxes or increasing tax rates.

    Note furthermore that the INITIAL focus is “to capture a good part of the revenue leaks caused by smuggling and evasion.

  5. Carl, the argument that since Noynoy is supposedly is a cacique and therefore he will govern as a cacique is non sequitur.

    Nothing in the policy perspectives Noynoy has given to the Makati business community for example indicates that he will run the country as a cacique. Note that his strategy to create fiscal flexibility is grounded on sound economic principles. Far from exhibiting a cacique mentality, it shows that he is a practicing modern economist.

  6. The cusp,

    If you have been carefully vetting Noynoy’s performance in several public appearances, I’m not sure if the “buyer’s regret” you are talking about has any basis at all.

    I’m about to suspect you are one of those being hoodwinked into buying what’s being peddled out there by agitpropists to the effect that Noynoy is an empty vessel latching only on “mythical family heritage.” You could be smarter than that, if you try to be more diligent.

    Last night, I reviewed Ninoy’s famous speech in LA on February 15, 1981. Ninoy was very entertaining yet now I could say that, unfortunately, he didn’t seem to have the substance that his son is exhibiting nowadays.

    Pleased check the right now, which features a video clip of Noynoy during the UP debate sponsored by PDI. Don’t you think that Noynoy without being theatrical has both form and substance?

  7. I mean . . .

    “Such an approach is apparently WITH a view to ‘(transforming) our country into one where we have lower tax rates enjoyed by all.'”

    And also,

    “PLEASE check the right now . . .”

  8. Abe: What does this campaign-statement mean anyway “…universal low tax rates to be enjoyed by all”. The highest marginal income tax rate for Pilipinas is 32%. [Whoever lowered it (Erap or GMA) from 34% to 32% made big-moolah gift to the Danding’s, Yuchengko’s, Ayala’s and Gokongwei’s) If Noynoy were an Obama, then he will raise the income tax on the top 5%. Do it England-style — marginal tax rate is 50% on folks making more than P11Million-a-year (or at least go for 42% (spain) or even 37%(Thailand)– that should annoy Villar quite a lot. But to raise the tax on Villar is to raise the tax on Danding and the Lopezes. Quite a predicament.

  9. Abe, I wasn’t stating a view that I held, only an observation regarding the views of those who have reduced Noynoy’s ratings.

    I am not about to make such sweeping generalisations that all of Noynoy’s economic and social agenda are sound as you do though. I would rather analyse them point by point. Some may be sound, others not.

    Here’s what Jonathan Nye, a classmate of Noynoy and highly regarded economist reportedly says about his program of government:

    “I read Noy’s Platform for Resurgent Hope…I fear that (it is) filled with implicit promises that will increase corruption in the long run. Maybe this is just the way that politics occurs. You say things one way but the implementation is what counts. But..I am worried that it is the same checklist of ideas borrowed by left wing/progressive parties in the west. Especially the emphasis on job creation, gender disaparities, environmental regulations, etc. At the same time, it talks about encouraging investment and private enterprise, and it is good on anti-corruption, etc. These sorts of plans may be appropriate for Europe or the US but are a disaster for 3rd world countries.”

    “If you remember my speech, I think the time will come when you will have to worry about whether too many giveaways and too much new legislation will only increase existing corruption. Perhaps the time will come when you need to consider some new initiatives that are unusual and which will not have the same flaws as price controls on drugs, subsidies to oil and gas, or bad land reform.”

    “I hope that Noy has economists on his team who will discuss his ideas seriously and try to think about what implementing some of his ideas will entail. I will probably be working with the World Bank next year and may end up as one of the World Bank team advising whichever party wins.”

    “But the anti-corruption focus is wonderful. You just need to be careful that the things you promise won’t make it harder to keep those promises.”

    “I would argue that in Cory’s administration, the foolish plan to control the ex-Marcos assets and sell them off at a “high” price (PCGG) ended up creating more headaches for the govt than they wished.”

    “Since Noy and TG are favorites to win, someone on their team should be thinking seriously about what concrete plans can be implemented that will not increase the probability of corruption.”
    ———— ——–

    About Dr. John Nye

    Dr. Nye graduated valedictorian (Ateneo HS) in 1977, the same year and school as Noynoy Aquino and TG Guingona. He earned a BS from the California Institute of Technology and a MA and PhD from Northwestern University. Professor Nye is the holder of the Frederic Bastiat Chair in Political Economy at the Mercatus Center. He is a specialist in British and French economic history, and the new institutional economics. He was a founding member of the International Society for the New Institutional Economics and has been on the editorial board of the Journal of Economic History. With John Drobak, he was co-editor of Frontiers in the New Institutional Economics. He has been a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a visiting professor at Stanford University. He is a regular visiting professor at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. His latest book, War, Wine, and Taxes, has just appeared from Princeton University Press.

    Dr. Nye will soon take up a post at the World Bank and may be part of the team advising the new President of the Philippines.

  10. Abe,

    What I was referring to was the fact that many of us as voters/consumers fall prey to our own biases. These biases make us vote for “anyone but…” because we have a bias against X.

    The reverse is that some of us see only the good side of a candidate since we are biased in favor of Y. These biases can be exploited or magnified by candidates and their handlers to either favour or hurt them. That’s all I was pointing out.

    I wasn’t saying that people were right/wrong for holding these biases. It is part of our make up. No matter how rational or above the fray we project ourselves to be, each of us from ABC to D and E discriminate based on our preferences (aka biases).

  11. Nonsense. There is only right and wrong, fundamentally we all know the difference, its only when we allow our biases to cloud our judgments that all hell breaks lose. There are only one set of universal principles, that cannot be broken in fact we break ourselves against them. So many people come up with rationalizations, justfications, when they cross the lines that must not be crossed…
    …life is simple, we just have to decide to do the right thing as best as we can…and deep down inside, we know the difference…

  12. UP n,

    My sense is that, during the fiscal crisis, keeping the highest income tax rate at only 32%, the lowest rate among the countries you’ve mentioned, could be in keeping with a low tax regime.

    Beyond the crisis, I’d like to see a convex income tax structure where more tax is imposed on more wealth instead of the VAT the ultimate burden of which is passed on to the middle class.

    Btw, Villar at the MBC forum is reported to have said he’s willing to impose new taxes to solve the fiscal deficit. If the Argentine crisis is any lesson learned, this may not be good idea, I suppose. Large tax increases without solving tax evasion was thought to have contributed to the Argentine debacle.

  13. Cusp,

    If you think I’m generalizing and Dr. Nye is not, please try reading again his comment that you have quoted. (I do understand though that he is not writing an economic treatise.)

    Anyway, a policy mixed bag of pursuing a developmental state and an economy that is self-reliant and effectively controlled by Filipinos vis-à-vis the recognition of the indispensable role of the private enterprise is constitutional mandate (see Art. II, Sections 19 and 20 of the Phil. Constitution). What I’m seeing is that Noynoy’s (as well as the LP) platform on the matter is no less a reaffirmation of the mandate.

    This is how the LP platform states the Party’s principle on this score, paradoxical as it may sound:

    In economics, Liberals believe that the social market economy is best able to generate prosperity while guaranteeing the maximum degree of choice. Government’s task is to ensure that the market operates freely and efficiently, by promoting competition and preventing monopoly. It must also ensure that externalities – most importantly, environmental costs and benefits – which are currently excluded from the prices set by the market are fully integrated

    (emphasis mine).

    While I could also see that Noynoy is a pragmatist rather than an ideologue, his repeated emphasis on consultation and transparency as well as on what works based on “kung ano ang tama” tells us that to him efficiency alone won’t be enough if not tempered by the right principles.

    He seems to be looking too for best practices suitable to RP not from Lefties in the West but from successful economies from the region (maybe, Taiwan or South Korea).

    It won’t be surprising if Noynoy as president will resist another Washington Consensus (or World Bank) formula even if given by a former classmate especially if such would be prescribed as an ideological end by itself.

  14. Cusp, I’m sorry about the confusion. But I still would like it figured out that if Noynoy is perceived to be pedestrian, where then is the “cognitive dissonance” (or contradictory cognitions) if his performance at those public appearances is thought to be dismal?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.