SWS: Aquino, Villar in statistical tie
MANILA, Philippines – The race to Malacañang has become very tight with the top two “presidentiables” locked in a statistical tie, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey commissioned by BusinessWorld showed.
The poll, the third conducted by the survey research institution for this newspaper, found the front-runners — senators Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III and Manuel “Manny” B. Villar, Jr. — both losing ground among voters with little over 2 months to go before the May 10 national elections.
The cost, however, was more substantial for the Liberal Party’s Mr. Aquino, who saw his overall score cut by a substantial 6 points to 36%, compared to just a one percentage-point drop to 34% for the Nacionalista Party’s Mr. Villar.
The gap between the two falls within the ±2.2% margin of error used in the February 24-28 survey, which used face-to-face interviews of 2,100 registered voters nationwide.
It was the first SWS-BW poll conducted since the February 9 start of the national campaign period.
A new system was used by the SWS: instead of the respondent responding orally after being asked to pick from the list of candidates approved by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), they were now provided “ballots” — which they had to mark in private and then deposit in a container brought by the interviewer.
All lists on the ballot were in alphabetical order and included nicknames as practiced by the Comelec on election day.
The question asked was “Kung ang eleksyon ay gaganapin ngayon, sino ang pinakamalamang ninyong iboboto bilang Presidente, Bise-Presidente, at mga Senador ng Pilipinas. Narito ang listahan ng mga kandidato. Paki-shade o itiman po ang naa-angkop na oval katabi ng pangalan ng taong pina-kamalamang ninyong iboboto (If the elections were held today, whom would you most probably vote for as President, Vice-President, and Senators of the Philippines. Here is a list of candidates. Please shade the oval beside the name of the persons you would most likely vote for).
In addition to those who declined to vote, did not choose or pick more than one presidential candidate, the 4% in the “undecided” category includes a small proportion — 1.6% — of ballots where the marks could not be read by an optical scanning machine.
“Assignment of the improperly marked ballots to the voters’ apparent choices would raise the national lead of Aquino over Villar by only 0.1%,” the SWS said.
The results contrast with a February 21-25 Pulse Asia survey released last Friday which showed Mr. Aquino — a late entry to the race — pulling away from Mr. Villar who had long declared his ambition to be president. The Pulse Asia tally — 36% for Mr Arroyo versus 29% for Mr. Villar — reversed an erosion in the former’s once-substantial lead when he first threw his hat into the ring late last year.
An analyst said political machinery could start coming into larger play later this month, with local candidates scheduled to start stumping for their and allied national bets’ votes on March 26.
Mr. Aquino’s 6-point fall, according to the SWS, came on account of drops in all 4 geographical study areas: 7 points in the Balance of Luzon, 6 in Mindanao, 5 in the Visayas, and 3 in Metro Manila.
Mr. Villar, meanwhile, lost 6 percentage points in Metro Manila, 2 in Balance of Luzon, and one in Mindanao, but picked up 5 in the Visayas to trim his overall slide to just one point.
By area, the SWS said Mr. Aquino remained ahead in Metro Manila, the Visayas, and Mindanao, while Mr. Villar was in front in the Balance of Luzon.
Their lost votes appear to have gone to the third- and fourth-ranked candidates: former President Joseph “Erap” M. Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, who picked up 2 points to score 15%, and administration bet Gilberto “Gibo” C. Teodoro of the Lakas-KAMPI-CMD, who also gained by 2 to 6%.
While the gap between the top two and the next two remained substantial, the SWS noted that support for Mr. Estrada was up by 6 points in Metro Manila, 3 in Mindanao, and one in the rest of Luzon. The former president — ousted, convicted of corruption and later pardoned — lost two points in the Visayas.
Mr. Teodoro, meanwhile, saw his support up by 3 points each in the Balance of Luzon and Mindanao, and by one in the Visayas, while dropping by only one point in Metro Manila.
Vote percentages for the rest of the presidentiables did not change significantly, the SWS said, from the previous poll done from Jan. 21-24. Eduardo C. “Bro. Eddie” Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas picked up a point to 3% to stay in fifth place, followed by Bagumbayan’s Sen. Richard “Dick” J. Gordon whose share stayed at 2%.
Kilusang Bagong Lipunan candidate Vetellano “Dodong” S. Acosta — disqualified by the Commission on Elections last week for not running a proper campaign — saw a minuscule uptick to 0.4%. The same 0.1 percentage point gain, to 0.2%, was enjoyed by independent candidate Jesus Nicanor “Nick” P. Perlas.
Ang Kapatiran bet John Carlos “JC” G. De Los Reyes slipped by the same margin to 0.1%, while independent candidate Sen. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” A. S. Madrigal saw her 0.4% score in January cut to just 0.1%.
For area scores, the margins of error used were ±6% for Metro Manila and ±4% for the Balance of Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.
By class, meanwhile, Mr. Aquino was said to be ahead among the masa or class D, albeit at a lower 38% from 45% previously, while Mr. Villar was the top pick for classes ABC — a lower 33% from 40% — and E — 2 points down to 34%.
“The key change from the Jan. 21-24 survey in class ABC was that both Villar and Aquino lost seven points, while Estrada gained four points and Teodoro gained two points,” the SWS said.
Mr. Villar did not widen a three-point ABC gap with Mr. Aquino but his lead over Mr. Estrada was cut to 19 points from 30 previously.
Among the masa, Mr. Aquino lost 7 points while Mr. Villar stayed steady: the gap thus narrowed to 4 points. Mr. Estrada picked up a point to Mr. Teodoro’s two.
In class E, Mr. Aquino lost 6 points while Mr. Villar lost 2. Mr. Teodoro gained 3 and Mr. Estrada two. The class E lead thus shifted to Mr. Villar, the SWS said.
Mr. Aquino declined to answer phone calls or reply to text messages. His spokesmen were also unavailable for comment.
Mr. Villar was also unavailable but his spokesman, former Cavite Rep. Gilbert C. Remulla, said: “Judging from the results of the past survey season, we can safely assume that at this point, it’s anybody’s ballgame. Sen. Manny Villar and the Nacionalista Party are pleased with the results and we consider our campaign to be on track with the results that we are getting.”
Messrs. Estrada and Teodoro were also not available for comment.
Earl G. Parreño, political analyst at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, commented: “Nobody is sure who will emerge in the end.”
He noted the erosion in the so-called “Cory magic” which had propelled Mr. Aquino to the front of the presidential race, prompting Sen. Manuel “Mar” A. Roxas to slide down to the vice-president slot.
Mr. Parreño claimed that based on command votes, which make up about 40% of the total, Messrs. Villar and. Teodoro could end up as top competitors given their machinery. — with a report from G. S. dela Peña