> Arroyo’s performance, trust ratings. It’s downhill after 2004 -Minerva Generalao, Kate V. Pedroso

Arroyo’s performance, trust ratings

It’s downhill after 2004

By Minerva Generalao, Kate V. Pedroso
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:36:00 07/27/2009

MANILA, Philippines—Different surveys tell the same story of continued public disenchantment with and distrust in President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Whether it’s the Social Weather Stations surveys, which ask a respondent whether he or she is satisfied with the performance of the President, or Pulse Asia Inc. opinion polls, which ask whether one approves of her performance, the results show that Ms Arroyo’s performance ratings have deteriorated so much over the past eight years.

Results of the surveys conducted by the two outfits also showed her markedly lower trust ratings.

“She has been the least popular of the four Presidents in the two decades since opinion polls have been regularly published,” SWS president Mahar Mangahas said in his 2006 report before the World Association for Public Opinion Research.

Mangahas also said Ms Arroyo had set record-lows and had been by far the only President to have scored negative net satisfaction ratings.

The net satisfaction ratings—the difference between those who are satisfied and those who are dissatisfied—have been negative since October 2004, he said.

Asked about the biggest factor that contributed to the decline, Ana Maria Tabunda, chief research fellow of Pulse Asia, pointed to the 2004 presidential election.

“The single biggest issue is the 2004 elections, Garci, and allegations of cheating. In fact, since that time, the ratings could not recover,” Tabunda told the Inquirer.

In the 2004 presidential election, Ms Arroyo won a six-year term with 40 percent of the votes compared with Fernando Poe Jr.’s 36.5 percent, the narrowest margin since Philippine independence in 1946.

Charges of fraud flew and the immensely popular Poe filed a legal protest, but he died from stroke in December in 2004. The furor over the Garci tapes, which purportedly revealed conversations between Ms Arroyo and then Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, erupted in early June 2005 and has since added questions to the legitimacy of the Arroyo presidency.

But could Ms Arroyo’s ratings recover in her last year in office?

Hard to regain trust

For Tabunda, the future of Ms Arroyo’s ratings looks bleak. “I think it’s really hard to win back trust,” she said.

“There would be some abating in the distrust and disapproval, depending on the economic performance to some extent, but it really would not go back to previous levels,” she said.

“And given all the issues about whether there will be constitutional change, whether there will be elections at all, definitely her trust ratings will not change.”

Tabunda also said Ms Arroyo’s performance ratings could move, but not necessarily in the positive direction. “Depending on how the economy is, that could even move down. She’s not going to recover anything,” she said.

From low to ‘bad’

Mangahas said Ms Arroyo did not have a normal honeymoon. Her accession to the presidency came when the nation was divided over deposed President Joseph Estrada who analysts said had succeeded in polarizing the rich against the poor.

The split was mirrored in the SWS March 2001 survey when 42 percent of the respondents were satisfied with Ms Arroyo’s performance, while 18 percent were dissatisfied and 40 percent were undecided, giving her a net satisfaction rating of 24.

Ms Arroyo’s 24 net satisfaction rating at the start of her term showed moderate support, but this was quite low compared with the ratings garnered by other post-Edsa 1 Presidents a few months after they occupied Malacañang—President Corazon Aquino in May 1986 (net 53), Fidel Ramos in September 1992 (net 66) and Joseph Estrada in September 1998 (net 60).

Ms Arroyo had high ratings when she was the social welfare secretary and Vice President. Her net satisfaction ratings were usually in the 60 and 70 levels in 1999 and early 2000.

But her ratings dropped 67 percentage points from 63 in September 2000 to -4 in December 2000, along with the drop in then President Estrada’s ratings in the midst of his impeachment trial.

A brief explanation was given by Felipe Miranda, Pulse Asia board chair, why Estrada’s deteriorating ratings affected Ms Arroyo’s ratings in a Pulse Asia report in January 2001.

Miranda said residents of Metro Manila were highly skeptical and found it difficult to trust top public officials and prominent political and religious personalities between Nov. 16, 2000, and Jan. 15, 2001.

(In fact, in the Pulse Asia Dec. 20, 2000, survey, the once very popular Estrada got a -15 net trust rating in Metro Manila).

Eroded fast

Already low to start with, Ms Arroyo’s ratings have been eroded fast over the past eight years. Compared with her March 2001 ratings, her recent scores all indicate a big slide.

The June 2009 SWS survey found that 26 percent of the respondents were satisfied, 56 percent were dissatisfied and 18 percent were undecided with Ms Arroyo’s performance for a “bad” net rating of -31 percent.

The May 2009 survey by Pulse Asia also showed that more Filipinos were critical of Ms Arroyo’s work, Twenty-six percent approved of her performance, but 46 percent disapproved, giving her a net of -20.

Negative since June 2005

Ms Arroyo’s approval rating—the difference between the percentage of those who approve of her performance and those who disapprove—has been negative since June 2005.

The same Pulse Asia survey showed a “most pronounced” public distrust in Ms Arroyo in which 25 percent had a big trust in her, while 48 percent had small or no trust, giving her a distrust score of 23 percent.

The surveys showed that the percentage of adult Filipinos satisfied with or who approved of her performance had been reduced by about half.

SWS results showed the figure dropping from 42 percent in March 2001 to 26 percent in June 2009. Pulse Asia results also showed a drop in the percentage of those who approved of her performance from 63 in March 2001 to 26 in May 2009.

On the other hand, the percentage of those who were dissatisfied with or disapproved of Ms Arroyo’s performance tripled over the years—from 18 percent in March 2001 to 56 percent in June this year in the SWS opinion polls, and from 15 percent in March 2001 to 46 percent in May this year in the Pulse surveys.

Ups and more downs

These imply that most of those who were satisfied in 2001 have become undecided or dissatisfied (or disapproved). Those who were undecided then have become dissatisfied (or disapproved) or have remained undecided, while those who were dissatisfied (or disapproved) at the start probably stayed dissatisfied the whole time.

Ms Arroyo’s net satisfaction rating first dipped to negative in March 2003, when she scored a net satisfaction rating of -14 (34 percent satisfied, 48 percent dissatisfied), a 20-percentage-point drop from the net rating of 6 in November 2002 (44 percent satisfied, 38 percent dissatisfied).

SWS attributed this to Ms Arroyo’s move to join the US-led coalition against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein “despite widespread public fears of adverse economic and security consequences.”

Ms Arroyo’s rating recovered in the following quarter, climbing 28 percentage points to 14 (46 percent satisfied, 32 percent dissatisfied) in May 2003, as the public graded her highly for the fight against SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). But Ms Arroyo’s rating dipped again to 2 in September 2003 (41 percent satisfied, 40 percent dissatisfied).

Oakwood mutiny, Jose Pidal

SWS attributed this to the Oakwood mutiny, whose peaceful resolution in July 2003 did not prove to be a positive factor for Ms Arroyo, and to public attention to the “Jose Pidal” case, which involved First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo.

Ms Arroyo’s net satisfaction ratings and her husband’s net trust ratings appear to follow a similar trend.

SWS data show the First Gentleman’s trust rating averaging a net -32 from 2001 to 2007. The only time he had a positive net trust rating was in January 2001, where he scored a net 14 (39 percent much trust, 25 percent little trust). In the succeeding 20 survey rounds after that, his net trust ratings have been consistently negative.

As of the SWS survey in December 2007, only 13 percent expressed much trust in the President’s husband, as against 64 percent who had little trust in him, giving him a net rating of -51, a record-low.

In the same survey, Ms Arroyo’s net satisfaction rating stood at -16, after dropping from the previous -11 in the aftermath of yet another controversy—the NBN-ZTE scandal.

Peak

Ms Arroyo’s satisfaction ratings peaked at 30 (55 percent satisfied, 25 percent dissatisfied) in March 2004, right before the May 2004 presidential election.

She last had positive net satisfaction ratings in the June and August 2004 surveys in which she scored net 26 and net 12, respectively. Ms Arroyo has only had negative public satisfaction ratings since, especially after allegations surfaced that she cheated during the May 2004 elections.

In May 2005, Ms Arroyo set a record-low when she scored a net rating of -33 (26 percent satisfied, 59 percent dissatisfied), at the time the lowest rating for any president since 1986. The rating came amid rising prices, higher taxes and a “jueteng” controversy involving her family.

Ms Arroyo would beat her own record three years later, in June 2008, with a rating of net -38 (22 percent satisfied, 60 percent dissatisfied).

A special nationwide survey commissioned by Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, chair of House oversight committee in July 2008, even found the President scoring lower with net -50 (17 percent satisfied, 67 percent dissatisfied).

At the time, the inflation rate hit record highs at 11.4 percent in June and 12.3 percent in July and fuel prices reached as much as P60 per liter for unleaded gas.

While Ms Arroyo’s rating climbed 23 percentage points to settle at net -27 in September last year amid the easing of inflation and oil prices, it has never gone higher than the net -24 she scored the following November.

Scandals

These showed how economics could worsen or improve the ratings, but Tabunda said Ms Arroyo’s ratings were not so much tied to economic performance than they were about the scandals that have gripped the administration.

“[President Arroyo’s trust and performance ratings] were not that high in 2007, which was the best year, economically speaking,” she said.

“Approval and trust in the President are affected by graft and corruption issues, as well as the Garci issue and the 2004 elections.”

Metro Manila most critical

Over the past eight years, Metro Manila has been the area most critical of Ms Arroyo, where her net ratings have been consecutively negative since August 2004.

From a net of 23 in March 2001, her rating dropped 69 percentage points to a net of -46 in June 2009.

Since 2001, Ms Arroyo’s ratings in Metro Manila ranged from a high of 27 in May 2001 to a low of -48 in June 2006. In 38 survey rounds, Metro Manila emerged to be the most critical of the President among four areas 28 times

On the other hand, the Visayas, touted to be Ms Arroyo’s bailiwick, is the least critical of the areas in 38 survey rounds. The Visayas emerged to have the highest net satisfaction rating for her 33 times.

Ms Arroyo’s net satisfaction ratings in the area ranged from 49 in June 2004 to -33 in June 2008, and indeed, even at its lowest, the Visayas churned out the highest net rating for that survey.

In Luzon outside Metro Manila, Ms Arroyo’s net rating ranged from 31 in August 2002 and -47 in May 2005, while in Mindanao, it ranged from 35 in March and June 2004 to -40 in February 2009.

Survey details

The nationwide quarterly SWS surveys used face-to-face interviews with samples of adult respondents ranging from 1,200 to 1,500. Their margin of error ranged from plus or minus 2.5 percentage points to 3 percentage points.

Pulse Asia’s Ulat ng Bayan national surveys used interviews with a multistage probability sample of 1,200 adult respondents. Their margin of error ranged from plus or minus 2 percentage points to plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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