As of May 7, Rodrigo Duterte is about to win the presidency.
When Duterte first announced his candidacy, I seriously considered him because of his policy of making it fast and easy to register businesses in Davao. As a startup founder scarred by red tape, bribe attempts from the SEC and Makati City Hall, and the despotic tax system, I was genuinely intrigued.
But based on all the evidence I’ve come across, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mar Roxas is a better fit for the job.
My emotions and grievances want me to support Duterte. But reason dictates that my vote goes to Mar.
I’ve weighed any potential benefits with the greater risks that a Duterte presidency can bring. The cussing and womanizing I can personally live with. But the extra-judicial killings, his treasonous and idiotic approach to China, and this lack of understanding of the economic & technological forces that can sink the BPO industry and our OFW remittances – all these are existential threats to the very idea of a “Philippines”.
Nations fail all the time. And we almost always underestimate how fragile our way of life is. This is the 30th year of our little democracy project in these islands. Duterte could push us to the precipice.
Winning in the Home Stretch
SWS and Pulse Asia show that he is number one, with a 30-33% lead. And contrary to what people say about the 2010 vice-president race, the surveys have always gotten the presidential race right. They may have been mistaken on the 3rd ranked candidates in the past, but that hardly matters right?
Rodrigo Duterte’s Facebook engagement numbers are off the roof. Even Google thinks he’s won already.
Can he be stopped? Unlikely. Given that both Mar and Grace have split 40-45% of the vote, and the last minute momentum that make the undecided vote gravitate to the frontrunner.
So it’s with the same rationality that made me conclude that Mar is right for the job that makes me realize that the best chance for stopping a Duterte presidency is for Mar to withdraw and back Grace. Not the other way around.
I’m writing this because at this point, Mar and Grace are probably trapped in an echo chamber of supporters, where the voice of reason and the triple threats of the confirmation bias, the availability bias, and loss aversion are amplified by group think and the fatalism of Filipino culture. We will win. Good will prevail. We will fight, are all shades of the same fatalism.
So I’m going to write this as objectively as possible. And if you feel queasy confronting data & evidence, I’m sorry but this is what the numbers bear out.
Pulse Asia’s Vote Diffusion Question
What most people don’t realize is that Pulse Asia asks a second choice question and then breaks down this preference within specific voting groups. So for instance, we can see among Duterte supporters, what % prefers Grace, Mar, etc as a second choice.
Pulse Asia calls this 1st to 2nd choice diffusion and it is useful in understanding where votes go if either Grace or Mar withdraws. I averaged out the diffusion percentages of three Pulse Asia surveys, March 8-12, April 19-24, and April 26-29.
* The way this question was asked is: “If your chosen candidate does not pursue his/her candidacy for whatever reason, whom among the remaining people would you for as President if the elections were held today?” The question also doesn’t prevent respondents from naming their 1st choice as their 2nd choice too – “Si Duterte talaga eh, wala nang iba”, is an answer that approximates this.
Across all voting groups, Grace is the dominant 2nd choice. For example:
- 38% of Duterte supporters have Grace as a 2nd choice (an important consideration – and I’ll get back to this later).
- 45% of Binay supporters have Grace as a 2nd choice, and
- 41% of Mar supporters pick Grace as a 2nd choice.
If you zero in to Grace vs Mar, you’ll clearly see that more Mar voters will be attracted to Grace, rather than the other way around. 41% of Roxas voters pick Grace as 2nd choice. Only 24% of Grace voters pick Mar as 2nd choice.
Who are the other picks of Grace voters? Binay (27%) and Duterte (19%). This gives credence to the argument that Duterte’s base will get even stronger if Grace was the one who pulled out.
Now if you assume 54.4 million registered voters, a 75% voter turnout (like the previous election), you get a base of 40.8 million votes up for grabs. (Hey, that could’ve been a PR campaign of GrabTaxi, yes? GRABVOTE = click on this app and a vote buyer will appear where you are to bid for your vote. Wait sorry, my ADHD kicked-in. Back to the math).
If you then average out the previous 3 Pulse Asia Surveys, Duterte ends up with 30% of the votes, equivalent to more than 12 million votes. This ignores any last minute momentum effects that could push his lead to more than 35%.
If Mar pulls out, asks his base to consolidate support for Grace, where could it go? Based on his diffusion numbers, Grace could gain more than 3 million votes.
This could be higher (if Mar is convincing enough and people rally to Grace) or lower (if the limited time prevents him from getting the message across).
The effect of this brings Grace ~9 million votes to within striking distance of Duterte’s 12 million. Duterte of course will gain some votes from Mar, approximate 1 million+ based on the diffusion numbers.
What will turn the tide?
Enter the most powerful group of people in this election: the roughly 2 million Undecided voters.
What the press also seemed to miss is that the Pulse Asia survey also had a question buried deep that allowed us to get clues on where the 5% of Undecideds could go.
After someone says that in the 1st choice question that they are “undecided”, they are also asked the 2nd choice question. In that question, around 20% gave an answer. And among this 20%, the split are: 43% Grace, 19% Binay, 16% Duterte, 11% Roxas.
43% of ~2 million people gives Grace another 800,000+ votes, enough to turn the tide into a narrow Grace victory. In addition, the opposition rallying around Grace would matter to the close to 40% of Duterte supporters (4 million+ people) who picked Grace as their 2nd choice. Even if just 10% of these people switch last minute (400,000) gives Grace a clear 1.2 million vote lead (800k + 400k) over Duterte.
A lot of things need to happen in so short a time for this scenario to come true.
But if Mar, Grace, Jojo, and Miriam truly believe Duterte is a threat to our democracy, they have the power to make this happen – if they just need to remove their ego out of the equation and listen to the evidence.
They should try because the alternative – a Leni VP victory leading to an LP-initiated impeachment against Duterte – does more damage to our institutions than this last-minute rally.
On a personal note, I think the conversations between Mar and Grace would be completely different if they had top-notch data science teams instead of PR motherfuckers surrounding them. It’s the data guys who would keep them honest, by not only keeping close track of the surveys, but complimenting this with other big data sources from the internet and social media. If someone from the LP for instance, was doing sentiment analysis, they wouldn’t have to wait till the last minute to sense the grassroots grievance of FIlipinos. And maybe the predominately male LP inner circle would’ve seen that Leni would’ve been the more viable presidential candidate. I have a friend who said late last year that Leni should’ve been fielded as President instead. I doubted it at the time. But how prescient he was. Leni’s the direct anti-thesis of Digong.
Whoever thought democracy could die because people couldn’t understand the data.
PS – this was a quick analysis done in 2 hours – I apologize for any errors.