While people are making the best out of their holiday vacations, the social media went abuzz last Holy Saturday with the announcement that three presidential candidates will be holding a joint press conference on Easter Sunday. As if it was mechanical, political pundits, analysts, forecasters, fortune tellers and the Maritesses released their takes on the event. Local strategists asked tarpaulin printing shops to halt, and so does a number of local political events. Almost everyone held their breath.
When the joint press conference came and the cameras panned in on Presidential aspirants Isko Moreno, Ping Lacson and Norberto Gonzales, jaws dropped. Are the three dropping their bids to the presidential race?
Years ago, Lafayette Limited, one of the mining companies operating in the Rapu-rapu, Albay, had to open its gates for experts to conduct different kinds of tests to ensure that its operations are safe and does not harm the environment. Specialists were deployed including a team that collected water samples from a stream. During the collection process, one team member slipped and fell into the water that the rest have to wait for the sediments to settle down before completing the task. Just then, an onlooker residing near the area quipped: Why not just collect samples from the edge where the water was not disturbed?
The suggestion was practical, but the team leader just ignored the statement. Whether it was because of the “I am the expert here” attitude or he just didn’t care, nobody knew. What is clear is that one cannot just pick samples anywhere. There must be some standards to follow just like in judging the taste of an instant coffee. To judge whether the coffee is sweet or bitter, one need not drink the contents of whole cup. A spoonful would be enough, and that spoonful is what we call the “sample”. But of course, we need to stir the coffee first before we take our spoonful. Otherwise, we may just be collecting a wrong sample similar to the proposal of just collecting water from the edge of the stream.
The concept of sampling, be these in streams or in cups of coffee, is the same as in the conduct of surveys. But since we cannot literally stir the people to be able to get a “spoonful” of sample, we follow protocols on how and where to select the respondents. To determine the “how” and the “where” we go back to the “why” – that is, the purpose of our survey.
Much has been said why voters will vote their candidates. Kakampinks will vote for Leni because of her performance and unblemished track record; Isko-ters (Isko supporters) will vote for Yorme because of what he claimed to have been done in Manila; Pacquaio-wans will vote for Manny because he is humble and proved that everyone can be like him rising from humble beginnings; Pingksmen will vote for Lacson because he did not dip his hands in the pork barrel; and the Pulahans and red shirts will vote for Marcos because of unity.
Wait, what? Unity?
Well, I am for unity but I will never vote for Bongbong Marcos for the sake of “unity”. Adolf Hitler committed the atrocities of World War II because of his vision of “unity”. The “Three Kings”, err, “Three Kims” of North Korea (Il-Sung, Jong-Il and Jong-Un) ruled the North un-interrupted because of unity and now the Koreans are impoverished and badly suffering from hunger. China is also what it was and is because of unity starting from the war of the states that attempted to solidify all the territories under one emperor to the present where communications are filtered to ensure the rule of the Communist Party.
Sometime ago I was commissioned by a local politician to conduct a survey adding that I should make him appear winner in the results. I was taken aback and asked about the real purpose of the survey he wanted. Was it for campaign strategy development or for propaganda? He replied that he wants both. I told him I can only do the first and if the results are in his favor, he can use the same for his messaging. He was surprised and said, “How come the previous pollsters I commissioned can do both?”
It took me sometime to explain how scientific surveys are conducted, how the respondents are selected, how questionnaires are developed, and how data are analyzed. It was squeezing a semester or two of research methods in an hour and a half.