Thursday, March 19, 2009

Intellectual dishonesty

A presidential candidate’s camp did a spin on the findings of the UP mass communication students research on “The Importance of Media Presence on the Bid for 2010 Elections”. Those findings were presented by the university’s Communications Research 165 students last Saturday, March 14. I was invited to the presentation, along with other media persons.

The main objective of the research, both quantitative (survey) and qualitative (focus group discussions) was to assess the identifiability and recognizability of potential candidates for the president and vice-presidential positions up for grabs in the 2010 elections, assuming there will be one. In short, who do you think, at this point in time (survey was done in Metro Manila. Calabarzon and three Central Luzon provinces during the Christmas break of 2008-2009), are running for president in 2010? The results of the survey showed that 79% of the 681 randomly-selected respondents believe Manny Villar would run for president. Why so? His ads are all over the place, dummy, and he himself has declared he is definitely running. Next is Loren Legarda whom 48% of the respondents said will also run. Then there is Kabayan Noli, with 45% saying they believe the Vice-President will also run for president. Why so? He is already VP, the FGD’s said. Then, 34% say Mar Roxas too will run. The field research period probably antedates his “murang gamot” ads. Bayani Fernando, whose tarpaulins are all over the land, and who has not been coy (I think he was the first to declare his intent to run for president) about his 2010 plans, has convinced 26% of the respondents that he is serious. That’s the top 5. Following closely is Ping Lacson, who 25% believe is gunning for the presidency come 2010. And 22% think Chiz Escudero will likewise run for president.

The following day, a broadsheet I read gave a fairly accurate report of the UP MassCom findings, except that appended to the report were the reactions of the topnotcher, thanking the University and the public for having recognized him, oh so humbly kuno, at that. All the findings stated were that 79% believe he is running, period. It does not say, whether in the survey or the FGD’s, that they want him to be president.

In the forum itself, a charming lady who identified herself as being with the MMDA, was so elated that her boss, my friend Bayani, was Numero Cinco in the surveys, while Pulse Asia and SWS rated him somewhere at the tail. Clearly she did not understand what the survey was about, or pretended not to, just so the other MMDA co-employees there present would report her elation to her boss. The following night, Bayani beamed with pride as Mo Twister of IMO on ANC congratulated him. The message they were communicating to the public was that he was Numero Cinco in the voters’ choices!

Then, tabloids and text messages got into the spin. “Villar tops UP Survey!” they said. Read the fine print, and that too was spun to convey voters’ choice, rather than the truth, which is that they know he is running, period.

Thus was the ComRes Department of the UP forced to write all and sundry to clarify that first, UP Diliman students were not included in the multi-stage random sample of respondents; two, that nobody among the potential candidates funded their academic exercise (baka nga naman akalain na pera-pera din sila ni Villar); third, that they did not conduct mock elections, contrary to how spin masters had already spun their research.

They repeated the question asked: “Based on what you see, hear and read in media, who do you think will run for either president or VP in the 2010 elections?” Why, even 6% still believe GMA will run, and the slogan they identify with her is “Gloria Labandera”. Bet you the respondents were not thinking about money laundering.

The moral of the story is this --- that some presidential candidates may have in their employ people who run their campaigns or their attempts at the same, without understanding what opinion research is all about. Or, understanding the same, still pander to their boss’ unquenchable desire to be president at all cost.

The other moral of the story, and this is quite immoral, is that some candidates will willingly distort anything, and create illusory spins about anything, be it an opinion survey or their own life story, just to project “winnability”. And hope to fool the dolts among voters to jump into their “bandwagon” this early in the game.

It’s all right to make a fool of oneself. That is privilege. That is an individual right. But please, don’t use well-meaning students who simply wanted to do honest academic exercise, and proud of what they had done, sought to share it with the public through media. The purpose of quantitative as well as qualitative research, is for candidates and their handlers to be guided, to learn from mistakes they may have committed, and discover that what sounded so brilliant a communications handle in the company of like-minded individuals, may not have resonated well with the target public.

It is sheer intellectual dishonesty to manipulate well-intentioned and honestly done research by the academic community, and use it as spin for their propaganda mill. And to think some of them graduated from the same university.

But then again, how can you expect anything but intellectual dishonesty from someone who pads the national budget with millions and millions, to pay himself for road right-of-way?

* * *

Just as I was about to send this article, an e-mail was sent to me by Grace, from North America, and she quotes wht the Good Lord says:

“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches. But let him who boasts, boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises kindness, JUSTICE and RIGHTEOUSNESS on earth, for in these I delight”.

How apropos.


Butchoy said...

In this case, the fine print should be included in the headline, for clarity to the spinmeisters whose heads spin so dizzily they cannot anymore decipher the real substance of the entire exercise, just to make their boss' ass swagger with delight.

Like what you said, WHAT A COUNTRY!