Is the Voice of the People the Will of the People? The Philippines Constitutional Reform Campaign
July 19, 2018
“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in 2012.” -Ruth Bader Ginsburg “The Notorious RBG”,American Supreme Court Justice
Every country’s constitution must undergo periodic amendment in order to adjust the structure of power and to protect the right of the people to deal with the domestic social forces and the international geopolitics. The challenge to this premeditated rearrangement of power and right is whether it is a justified reaction to the reality or a justifying attempt to enshrining those in power and the depriving those in need. The Philippines is undergoing one such period.
The attempt to call the sixth constitutional convention for the Republic of Philippines is underway, spearhead by President Duterte and his follower. President Duterte swept into power with 39% of the votes in 2016, and, pledge during his campaigning to move from a unitary government structure to a federal one. In March 2018, Pulse Asia’s poll indicated 23% of the 1200 respondent wants to change the system, 64% said it should not be changed, with 13% uncertain. The recent June 2018 poll showed 18% for, 67 against, and 14% uncertain.
Rather than running just another social intelligence vs. traditional polling comparison, we examine the influence composition and the outcome implication of those forces arrayed for and against the issue.
Overall, the pro cha-cha forces are well organized and work in concert to rally around the persona of President Duterte, with 7 of the top 25 influencers in this issue bearing his name in the group title. Since August 16, 2017, the issue has generated over 32,867 posts, triggering 4,380,185 engagement. In the public’s mind, this issue is synonymous with President Duterte. The outcome of the Cha-Cha push, legislatively and socially, will be a true test of President Duterte’s popularity ahead o the next presidential election, and, more interesting to us, a litmus to the criticism of the Philippines’ public polling industry.
The anti cha-cha forces’ performance is inconsistent and, at times, absent. One of its weakness is the lack of a focal persona, although Vice President Leni Roberdo is slowly gaining visibility and more follower because of her stance on this issue. The anti cha-cha forces seem to be composed of President Duterte’s opposition, Jurisprudence, and anti-Macro forces. There is no widely accepted argument as to why the current charter should stand as is, but only opposition to the proposed charter.
Despite the anti cha-cha weaker organizational effort, as contrasted with the more solidified and more coordinated forces of pro cha-cha, the anti cha-cha has more raw emotion to work with. From a purely reactionary side, the anti cha-cha has more raw emotions to work with. The cha-cha article usually generates anger reaction ranging from 6000 to 17,000 reactions, whereas the love for cha-cha is stable at around 4,500 reactions. This suggests the percentage published by Pulse Asia may be understating the level of objection. The objection to cha-cha (not to be confused with anti cha-cha) is anywhere from 58% to 80%.
However, this isn’t to suggest the cha-cha will fail at a plebiscite. One political factor lies in the pro cha-cha’s coordinate and fanaticism. A fast reading of the social data suggests that the pro cha-cha network is more coordinated, has strong support among President Duterte’s voters but this fanatic support has not bled out their own echo chamber. It takes no imagination to see that the organization that turned out the voters for President Duterte’s victory will also be used to turn out voters for the cha-cha. A low double-digit change in the total voter turn out will be enough to alter the electoral calculus.
The high floor of the anger towards cha-cha and the single-time spike of anger suggest the cha-cha issue is wildly unpopular with the general population, but the anti cha-cha players are not cohesive enough to organize this free-floating dislike into a voting block that can resist the dedication of President Duterte’s supporters. At least, not yet.
Unlike the traditional polling, Social Intelligence uses social media data about people’s longitudinal attitude and behaviors, in an observational manner, whereas traditional polling engaged the respondent. For this quick analysis, we used data provided by QSearch.
Traditional polling suffers from three well-known biases. Sampling error, Recency effect, and leading by the wording. Sampling error refers to how a group of people is selected to respond to a survey. Asking for an opinion on abortion of a group of churchgoer versus a group of healthcare professionals will produce a vastly different result. Recency effect refers to how a recent and dramatic news affects the respondent’s perspective of a value. This type of bias is often exploited in the aftermath of disasters to bolster various political programs. Leading the respondent refers to the well-known problem of how the survey question is framed. All these issues are well-known in opinion polling and require an experienced hand to guide the process to prevent an opinion poll from being used as a propaganda tool. However, no amount of rigorous survey design can defend against a respondent lying to pollsters, either by answer in a way they think it pleases the survey taker or by answering in a way that hides their unpopular opinion, as some have opined in the 2016 US presidential election, where the polling data did not tally up against the voting record.
Socially Intelligence doesn’t suffer sampling error in the same way traditional polling does. For the current issue, we extracted roughly 3 million reactions again the total vote cast in the 2061 presidential elections of 42 million votes. As of 2018, the Philippines has 67 million intern users out of 91 million. Social Intelligence’s data do have a structural flow, whereas social media access is voluntary and paid for activity, there are economic biases in those people who are on social media, also, social media is not a well-established use among older generation, so social intelligence may also under-represent a whole segment of the population, who still relies, primarily, on traditional media, and dark social network.
Because social intelligence uses a system that has over a year of social media data to analyze from we can infer stable, long-term attitude versus, attitude changes caused by recency effect, and tease apart reaction version long-held convictions
Lastly, Social Intelligence is a passive observation of people’s utterance and behaviors, and we do not actively question people’s belief and attitude, so our conclusion is free from leading by wording, however, because Social Intelligence relies on self-reporting and self-selection data, we are unable to engage and ask granular questions, or challenge the readership’s thinking or ask them to reconsider a possibility. For example, Social intelligence would not have been able to ascertain that 70% of the people feel they are inadequately informed about the cha-cha to make a decision.
In comparing and contrasting Traditional polling and social intelligence, their salient point is one of precision and vagueness. Social intelligence, with its passive-observation and fewer biases, is usually vaguely right, in the sense that we can tell which way the macrotrend is moving, but Social Intelligence suffers from precision and granularity, as Pulse Asia determined that majority of the people does not feel informed to make a decision on cha-cha.
In choosing the form of data to guide their action. the poll reader is confronted with the choice between precisely right or precisely wrong?” Social intelligence, at this stage of technology and methodological development, can only be viewed as vaguely right. As it progresses to cohesively combined fractured social data channels, develop more predictive analytics, and refine descriptive spastics, it will move from vaguely right to being precise right. That day is coming, but just not soon enough for the cha-cha issue.
In providing social intelligence services, we keep ourselves humble by remembering the quip made by Robert Orben, speechwriter to the American President Gerald Ford, “Do you ever get the feeling that the only reason we have elections is to find out if the polls were right?”
*Apology for the use of cha-cha as a stand-in for the more formal “charter change.” It is hard to resist its childish charm.