VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Viral ‘national’ surveys of Senate bets on Facebook lack basis

Read this fact check in Filipino

(UPDATED) Two baseless nationwide surveys of senatorial candidates have been circulating on Facebook ahead of the May 2019 elections.

STATEMENT

On Jan. 6, Atty. Glenn Chong Supporters, a Facebook page backing the senatorial aspirations of former Biliran Representative Glenn Chong, posted a ranking of senatorial candidates titled “LATEST NATIONAL SOCIAL SURVEY THRU FACEBOOK AS OF JANUARY 2, 2019, AS OF 8:00 P.M. 2019 SENATORIAL CANDIDATES.”

It bore the caption: “Pakikalat at report natin. Huwag basta maniwala sa mga biased surveys (Let us share and report this. Do not readily believe in biased surveys). CTTO”
Source: Facebook.com, Atty. Glenn Chong Supporters, Jan. 6, 2019

Two days later, Silent No More PH posted another survey with the same title, but with a different date and rankings of certain candidates. The anti-Duterte page called it a “joke”:

“Dear Fellow Filipinos, JOKE OF THE DAY! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! #Joke #NgaNga #AlamNaThis #SilentNoMorePH,” it said.

Source: Facebook.com, Silent No More PH, Jan. 8, 2019

FACT

Both surveys have no basis.

They lack the standards that researchers worldwide consider to be “mandatory requirements” in publishing professional survey results.

These standards can be found in a guideline jointly developed by international research organizations World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) and the World Association for Social, Opinion and Market Research (ESOMAR).

The ESOMAR-WAPOR guideline highlights key information that must be made available in published surveys for transparency, among others:

  1. organization which conducted the poll and the sponsor
  2. respondents, their demographics and geographic range, such as country, province, city, and whether certain groups were excluded in the design
  3. sample size or the number of completed interviews in the findings
  4. fieldwork dates
  5. sampling method used
  6. method by which the poll was conducted, such as face-to-face or telephone interviews
  7. whether “weighting,” or the process of adjusting poll data to ensure the sample more accurately reflects the characteristics of the population, was used
  8. percentage of respondents who give “don’t know” answers
  9. the relevant questions asked in the survey

“Disclosure requirements matter because as opinion polls have grown in number and variety, decision-makers, journalists and the public need to be able to differentiate between professional and unprofessional polls,” the guideline reads.

In a phone interview with VERA Files, Social Weather Stations (SWS) Communications and Information Technology Director Leo Laroza confirmed that the absence of these disclosure requirements in surveys raises red flags. SWS is a WAPOR member.

For surveys commissioned by certain groups, Laroza stressed the importance of knowing who the survey’s sponsors are.

Notably, the two unsubstantiated surveys posted on Facebook also ranked the candidates using percent figures that have no corresponding values, making it impossible to determine how many people were polled.

The surveys were posted on social media days after news organizations reported the results of a senatorial survey they attributed to the SWS and which they said was conducted in December.

Results of the unsupported surveys shared by Atty. Glenn Chong Supporters and Silent No More PH contrast starkly to the SWS poll.

Ilocos Governor Imee Marcos, who purportedly topped both surveys, ranked only 11th in the SWS survey.

Reelectionists Cynthia Villar and Grace Poe who ranked first and second in the SWS survey results, ranked 7th and 21st in both unsupported surveys, respectively.

Chong, whose ranking surged from 10th to 2nd in the viral surveys, did not figure in the top 15 of the SWS poll.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and former police and customs chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who are among the frontrunners in both unsupported surveys, were only in 15th-16th places in the SWS rankings.

At least 21 Facebook pages shared the first survey, which could have reached 1.9 million people. Most of these pages bear the names of President Rodrigo Duterte, while some purportedly support certain candidates, including Go, Dela Rosa and former spokesperson Harry Roque.

The second survey could have reached more than 880,000 netizens.

“Faulty reportage of surveys are very common in the period leading up to an election,” Laroza said.


Sources:

American Association for Public Opinion Research, Weighting

Esomar.org, What we do

Inquirer.net, Villar, Poe lead latest SWS Senate race survey, Jan. 2, 2019

Manila Bulletin, Villar tops SWS survey on Senate race, Jan. 2, 2019

Philstar.com, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe still lead senatorial survey--SWS, Jan. 2, 2019

Social Weather Stations, About SWS

World Association for Public Opinion Research, ESOMAR/WAPOR Guide to Opinion Polls

World Association for Public Opinion Research, WAPOR Code of Ethics

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

(VERA Files is a part of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking initiative by the academe and the media for the 2019 Philippine midterm elections.)

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