by Pedro “Junie” Laylo Jr.

THE November 2009 results of the first Manila Standard Today Poll show Benigno Aquino III as the primary choice of registered voters nationwide for the highest national elective post, and three weeks before the filing of certificates of candidacy with the Commission on Elections. Beyond the race, it is important to know the rationale behind the votes at this point, and that is what the initial Standard poll delved into.

Why were some candidates chosen or not chosen?

The reasons the voters gave as to why they prefer or not prefer certain candidates provide a glimpse into what drives the votes for president as of now.

Of the 42 percent who now prefer Aquino over four other candidates in a list, the main reason relates to his parents’ legacy. Even the impression of him not being corrupt is related to his familial connection with personalities in Philippine history: Ninoy and Cory, who are perceived as having an untainted image. Conversely, those who will not vote for him at all doubt his leadership credentials.

Of the 24 percent of the people polled who will vote for Senator Manuel Villar, his pro-poor image and advocacy of migrant workers are his major strengths. Of the rest who will not vote for him, a lack of awareness of him and his involvement in various controversies are seen as his weaknesses.

Of the 13 percent who will favor Senator Francis Escudero, their impression of him centers on his being smart and articulate and his principled stand on issues. On the other hand, those who will not favor him believe he is not yet ripe for the presidency.

Of the 13 percent who will vote for ousted President Joseph Estrada, his pro-poor image continues to persist. Alternatively, his criminal conviction for plunder is the major turn-off among those who will not vote for him.

The 4 percent who choose Teodoro recognize his potentials to be President. The rest who did not choose him generally were simply not aware of his personality, platform, and accomplishments.

The survey also asked voters what 10 characteristics they want presidential candidates to have, and the following came out as their top priorities: has compassion for the poor, is approachable, and can generate jobs or provide people a means of livelihood. The characteristic “comes from a good family” was also included in the list, but comes off as the least priority.

When probed further as to which of the potential candidates for President exemplify each of the favored characteristics, Villar is the candidate that voters say possesses the top three characteristics. They say Aquino best exemplifies the rest of the attributes, and understandably is the overwhelming choice as the one who comes from a good family background.

It is interesting to note that despite the impression that Villar seems to have the top characteristics that the public views as important for a candidate for President to have, Aquino still comes out as the most preferred candidate overall.

But how committed are the voters to their chosen candidates? Those who say they are predisposed to no longer changing their minds ranges from a low of 53 percent to a high of 62 percent across all candidates. The core supporters, when computed, are as follows: Aquino, 26 percent; Villar, 13 percent; Estrada, 8 percent; Escudero, 7 percent; and Teodoro, 2 percent.

The accumulated core support of the top five candidates at the moment is 56 percent, and this indicates that about 44 percent of all voters are still up for grabs. This slice includes those who say they have not yet fully made up their minds and are liable to change their choice, plus those who are still undecided whom to vote for president next year

The presidential candidates should find it crucial to know from which segments of the population the uncommitted voters come from, and to what extent they can still be persuaded by the values, platforms, arguments and issues they espouse. Parallel to that is the need to protect their supporters and expand this dedicated base as much as and as fast as they can.

The pre-election polls on the 2004 Presidential elections show that both De Castro and Raul Roco were way ahead of Gloria Arroyo from April to October 2003. In January 2004, De Castro agreed to run as vice president under the administration ticket, which led to Fernando Poe’s lead over Arroyo towards the middle of March 2004.

But by the end of March, with Poe reeling from the controversy surrounding his American citizenship, Arroyo had begun to take the lead, going to areas that had the biggest chance of voter conversion and armed with the right messaging. She maintained her lead from that time on and eventually won the Presidential election in May 2004.

With the elections still about six months away, the scores now presented may only be viewed as temporary and fluid. There is always room for improvement for both the leading candidates and the tail-enders, and it would be interesting to see what the trend will be in the coming months.

1st Laylo Report 11-09RP Tables

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