Understanding the big drop in President Duterte’s ratings

 In World

At least one thing is for certain: the decline in President Duterte’s net satisfaction rating is not a fluke, it is evident across all major geographic and social divides across the country

Published 11:42 AM, October 10, 2017

Updated 11:42 AM, October 10, 2017

Cracks are beginning to show in President Duterte’s image as a “populist” strongman.
The latest quarterly survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed a precipitous 18 percentage-point drop in President Duterte’s net satisfaction rating from June to September 2017. By SWS’ own metric, this demotes the President from a “very good” net satisfaction rating to “good.” Meanwhile, his net trust rating fell by 15 points.

Following 4 consecutive survey rounds of “very good” ratings, this big dip seems to suggest that, indeed, the year-long “honeymoon” has finally ended.

But this is such a conspicuous dip that that even President Noynoy Aquino – who had a much shorter honeymoon period – scored a higher net satisfaction rating during the same time in his presidency.

Figure 1 shows that in September 2011 President Aquino got a +56% net satisfaction rating, while in September 2017 President Duterte got just +48%.

Figure 1. With a ±3% margin of error for the September 2011 figure, and a ±2.5% margin for the September 2017 figure, this gap is statistically significant. Note, however, that comparing trendlines may be more meaningful than comparing individual data points.

Breaking down the data

What could explain the big September drop in President Duterte’s ratings?

For starters, the latest SWS survey – conducted from September 23 to 27, 2017 – was no doubt influenced by a string of preceding controversies that rocked the nation.

First was the highly-publicized killing of teenagers Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz, and Reynaldo de Guzman in the Philippine National Police’s “One-Time-Big-Time” operations mid-August. Second was the House of Representatives’ unpopular move to slash the Commission on Human Rights’ budget to a paltry P1,000. Third was the “National Day of Protest” where thousands went to the streets on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Marcos’ martial law declaration.

But more striking than the dip itself is how broad-based it is: the President’s ratings dropped across nearly all regions and socio-economic groups.

Figure 2 shows this across-the-board decline. Instead of the usual quarter-on-quarter changes (June 2017 to September 2017), I graphed the year-on-year changes (September 2016 to September 2017) which I think are more relevant.

Figure 2. Note: for national percentages, the sampling error margin is ±2.5%; for balance Luzon it’s ±4%; for Metro Manila, Visayas, and Mindanao, it’s ±6% each.

Given the survey’s small sample size, it’s really hard to deduce anything conclusive from these numbers. Still, the patterns are telling.

First, the regional declines are all statistically significant. The biggest came from Luzon sans NCR (21 points), followed by Visayas (19 points), NCR (14 points), and Mindanao (9 points).

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