The Social Weather Stations (SWS) reported last Thursday a ten-point drop in President Duterte’s trust ratings – from +75 in the December 8-16, 2017, survey to +65 in the March 23-27, 2018, survey. The latest +65 score comes from 76 percent of the respondents who said they have “much trust” in the President, against 7 percent with “little trust” and 10 percent “undecided.”
It was pointed out by SWS, however, that the +65 score was still “very good” in its assessment of its findings. The earlier rating of +75 had been “excellent.”
Some news reports stressed the 10-point dip. Others stressed the SWS assessment that it was still “very good.”
Different people will find different meanings in survey results such as this. Since his election in May, 2016, President Duterte has enjoyed very high ratings – starting with +79 in June, 2016. The ratings were all in the 70’s, except once, in September last year, when it dipped to +60. But then it shot up to +75 the very next quarter.
All new presidents of the country have traditionally enjoyed high ratings at the beginning of their terms, but these ratings tend to go down as the months and years pass. Four months after his election in May, 2010, previous President Benigno S. Aquino III had a high +64 in September, 2010. A year later, in Sepeptember, 2011, his rating had gone down to +56. And in March, 2012, it was further down to +46.
In comparison, President Duterte scored a high +79 a month after his election. In the succeeding quarterly surveys, he continued to score in the seventies, except for a +60 in September, 2017. He rebounded to +75 last December.
President Duterte’s high ratings all these months were due to the people’s perception of him as a decisive leader, with his all-out drive against drugs, his readiness to replace officials he believed were not performing well, his moves to end rebellions of both the Moro people and the Communist New People’s Army, and his unprecedented efforts to develop an independent foreign policy.
He has not been able to deliver within the times he had promised during the campaign. That could account for the drop in rating from an “excellent” +75 but it is still a “very good” +65 after two years of his administration. In comparison, President Aquino scored a “good” +41 after his first two years.
We will be watching what happens in the next quarterly survey in June, 2018. If the rating continues to fall, that would be cause for concern. But more likely, President Duterte’s survey rating will continue to range between “good” and “very good.” We cannot see it plunging to “moderate” or “neutral.”
There are lower ratings – “poor,” “bad,” very bad,” and “execrable.” We cannot imagine what kind of administrations would merit such descriptions.
In the light of all this background – the survey ratings of a previous president and the possible depths that can be reached in these surveys – we have no reason to feel too concerned about the ten-point drop in President Duterte’s latest survey findings. As presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, it is still a show of significant trust in the President, a vote of confidence in his performance and his administration.