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Duterte's high satisfaction ratings may be tied to herd behavior, disinformation —Ateneo study

Presidential net satisfaction ratings are possibly tied to herd behavior and disinformation rather than economic factors, a study has found.

A study from the Ateneo School of Government by Tristan Canare, Ronald Mendoza, Leo Jaminola, and Jurel Yap examined data on Philippine presidential net satisfaction ratings by survey firms like the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia.

“This study finds scant evidence that economic links are tied to presidential satisfaction… Instead, there is evidence of herd behavior and partial evidence of disinformation possibly linked to presidential net satisfaction,” the abstract reads.

The Ateneo School of Government commissioned its own survey in July 2019 among 1,200 low-income registered voters in Metro Manila.

The survey found that the respondents are “somewhat satisfied” with President Rodrigo Duterte with a net satisfaction rating of +61.

Of the 1,200 respondents, 72 percent said they were satisfied, 11 percent were dissatisfied, and 16 percent were undecided.

Herd behavior

The survey also incorporated a test for herd behavior by asking the respondents about the opinion of their respective communities on Duterte.

The authors said herd behavior is exhibited when “individuals turn to observable behavior by large groups in order to overcome information challenges.”

The study found that the respondents’ perception of their community’s satisfaction with the president is linked to their own satisfaction rating.

This herd behavior is also consistent with bandwagon effects present in financial investment behavior, which, according to the study, "may now also be deeply engrained in political perceptions and behavior."

"The significance of this factor provides one possible explanation why Presidential satisfaction tends to be sticky and high, initially, but can deteriorate fairly quickly, eventually," the study said.

"Akin to herd behavior in the financial markets, herd behavior in leadership satisfaction can unwind quickly as well, since they are not really underpinned by fundamental factors eliciting support," it added.


Meanwhile, the study found that there is only “partial evidence” that support for Duterte is affected by fake news.

The survey included four false claims which the respondents had to answer with either “yes” or “no”:

  •     Drug overdose is one of the leading causes of death among young Filipinos
  •    Since the Philippines gained independence after World War II, the largest annual average GDP growth rate was achieved during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos
  •     China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea started during the term of President Duterte
  •     At present, China is the Philippines’ largest creditor for infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and airports

The questions aimed to determine the correlation between susceptibility to fake news and presidential net satisfaction.

The results of the survey found that only the first false claim is related to presidential satisfaction.

“Given the President’s well-known anti-drugs campaign, we are not surprised that this statement was accepted as true by those who also tend to strongly support the president,” the authors said.

In the final quarter of 2019, three and a half years into Duterte’s term, a Social Weather Stations survey said the president achieved a personal record-high satisfaction rating of +72.

Two days later, SWS released the results of a separate survey that showed an estimated 13.1 million families rating themselves as "mahirap" or poor.

The latest Self-Rated Poverty (SRP), which found 54% of families considering themselves as poor, is the highest since the 55% in September 2014. —LDF, GMA News