To Erap, the answer to that question will ever be an unwavering “yes.” The poor are his loyal constituency. He has a special pact with them. They made him president; they alone, he says, can tell him to resign. As they are the majority of the Filipino people, their support is all that matters. They will not let him down.
Not so — says Romeo L. Manlapaz, a UP Professor of Mathematics and an original incorporator and director of Pulse Asia. He has a different story to tell. Manlapaz claims Erap’s support among the poor is now largely a myth. The affection of the masa for Erap is not infinite. Some little known data from Pulse Asia’s previous surveys show that his vaunted mass base has been significantly eroded even before the jueteng expose.
In December 1999, Pulse Asia added three new questions to its quarterly survey: 1. “Did you vote in the 1998 presidential election?” 2. “Whom did you vote for?” and 3. “Would you still vote for him/her if the election were held today?” These questions were also asked in the March 2000 survey. The results, says Professor Felipe Miranda, Pulse Asia’s president, were there for everyone to see, but the media failed to notice them.
Manlapaz recently revisited these two surveys in order to settle once and for all the question of whether Erap still had the backing of the masa. The findings should open the eyes of Erap.
In the December 1999 survey, 58% of the 1200 respondents said they either did not vote or did not vote for Erap. But 42% admitted they voted for Erap. Of the ones who voted for him, 17% of the total said they would not vote for him again, while 11% said they were not sure anymore. Only 14% of the total number of survey respondents said they would still choose him as president. This is only one-third of the people who trusted him with their votes in 1998!
This pattern of growing public disaffection with Erap is confirmed by the March 2000 survey. The same 3 questions were added to the survey questionnaire. Of the 1200 respondents polled, 53% said they either did not vote in 1998 or voted for someone other than Erap. But 47% said they voted for Erap. Of these Erap voters, 20% said they would not vote for him anymore, while 14% said they were now ambivalent towards him. Only 13% of the total survey respondents said they would still vote for Erap. This is less than one-third of those who voted for him.
The results of these two surveys are more or less consistent with the 40% share of the votes that Erap obtained in the 1998 elections. It is unfortunate that the questions that yielded these findings were not asked again in the July and October 2000 surveys. Erap would be lucky to get even one-third of those who voted for him in 1998. The picture we have here was taken before juetengate and long before any one imagined the impeachment case against the president would ever reach the Senate.
These findings are devastating enough, but they do not tell us the socio-economic profile of the Erap “repudiators” and the Erap “diehards.” So I begged Manlapaz to analyze the same data in terms of socio-economic classes. His re-analysis of the March 2000 survey data yielded what may well be the only concrete picture available of the socio-economic distribution of Erap supporters. These findings should bury once and for all the myth of Erap’s steady masa constituency.
Pulse Asia groups its respondents into 5 socio-economic groups, namely, “AB,” “C,” “D1,” “D2,” and “E” using some objective rating criteria. These market categories correspond roughly to commonsense notions of “Upper and Upper-Middle Classes,” “Middle Class,” “Lower Middle Class,” “Middle Lower Class,” and “Lowest or Poorest Class,” respectively.
The 1200 participants in the March 2000 survey had the following socio-economic profile: 14.58% belonged to the AB-C categories, and 85.42% to the D1-D2-E groups. Compared to the general population, this sample may seem slightly skewed toward the lower classes. But here is how the socio-economic groups responded to the three questions.
From the AB-C groups, 10.58% said they did not vote for Erap, and only 4% said they voted for him. In contrast, in the D-E groups, 42.50% claimed they did not vote for Erap, while 43.92% said they voted for him. We might say the latter form the core of Erap’s constituency in 1998. How many of them would still stand by him?
Of the 4% from the AB-C crowd who voted for him, more than half or 2.25% said they would not vote for him again, 1.08% said they had become ambivalent, and only 0.67% would stand by him. These results are hardly surprising; they simply imply that Erap would not be able to draw any support from the ABC classes.
More interesting however are the results from the masa sector. Of the 43.92% from the DE classes who voted for Erap in 1998, 17.67% said they would not vote for him again, 12.50% said they had doubts, and only 12.75% would still stand by him. They are the hard-core Erap fans. At the time they were asked, they had not heard of Chavit Singson’s revelations about jueteng bribes and tobacco excise tax kickbacks, of Erap’s mistresses and their fabulous mansions, or of Atong Ang and the Bingo 2-Ball. How many of the 13% hard core followers of the country’s 13th president would be willing to die to keep him in office? Probably only a handful by year’s end, if we go by the swiftness with which the Erap legend has evaporated.
In volatile times, says Manlapaz, what bears watching is not so much where public sentiment stands at any given moment, but which direction it is headed. These findings show it is headed in the direction of a massive repudiation of the movie hero the masa loved and trusted, but who failed them in the end.
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