What we practice and preach

By: Mahar Mangahas - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 14,2023 - 08:00 AM

The start of a new year seems a good time to clarify the vision and mission of Social Weather Stations. My perspective is simply that of the oldest of the SWS veterans, where my title has been Chair Emeritus since September 2021, when Linda Luz B. Guerrero ([email protected]) became SWS president/CEO for 2021-2024.

“Economics is what economists do” is one definition of economics that I have liked, ever since my undergrad years. Similarly, one could say that SWS is what it does, namely, doing regular surveys about the well-being/ill-being of the Filipino people, in all aspects—economic, social, political, and whatever else—that it feels worthwhile.

The new SWS poverty report. Poverty is a continuing topic of the SWS surveys. This week’s report on Self-Rated Poverty—“Fourth Quarter 2022 Social Weather Survey: 51% of Filipino families feel Poor; 31% feel Borderline, 19% feel Not Poor” (www.sws.org.ph, 1/12/2023)—was the 138th of a series that began in 1983, and has been quarterly since 1992.

The national numbers showed stability from the third quarter, when the Poor, Borderline, and Not Poor were 49, 29, and 21 respectively, all of which are less than the 3-point national error margin.

The stability of national figures was due to significant, offsetting, changes in major areas. Poverty was up by 13 points in the Balance of Luzon (from 36 to 49 percent), but down by 12 in NCR (from 44 to 32), down by 10 in the Visayas (from 68 to 58), and down by 5 in Mindanao (from 64 to 59, or within the error margin).

SWS offers such data for the enlightenment of development workers everywhere. The government has no counterpart figures to verify or dispute the data, as far as I know. The reasons for the statistically significant changes in each area are up to regional specialists to figure out—if they are truly interested, or else are forced to come up with explanations/excuses. I wouldn’t be surprised to see storylines dominated by onions, sugar, pork, and eggs.

In coming weeks, there will be updates, as usual, of SWS data on hunger, joblessness, trends, and expectations of personal quality of life, victimization by crime, feelings of insecurity of homes and the neighborhood, public access to anti-COVID vaccination, and other matters. The survey agenda will evolve.

I have courtesy access to the survey questionnaires, and to tabulations of the findings, but I don’t scoop the SWS media releases in my column. To be placed on the SWS e-alert list, write [email protected]

Social media have reduced the relevance of political popularity as an indicator of social well-being. In my opinion, the stated views of survey respondents are most dependable when they refer to the respondents’ own personal circumstances or family circumstances.

When a survey question involves the name of a political personality or entity, I am personally wary of survey respondents’ ability to make an unbiased, well-informed reaction to it. The people’s use of newspapers, especially the broadsheets, has fallen drastically; instead, they are relying on social media. Television seems to be holding its own, fortunately.

For assessing a program or policy of the government, a survey should probe carefully into the respondents’ personal connections and close-up experiences. I worry that the people’s opinions “from afar” can be easily polluted by trolls.

The SWS business model. SWS, a nonprofit institute, is able to continue its public service reporting on topics of its own choice, thanks to revenue from various projects—dedicated surveys, special modules, and individual questions within the Social Weather Survey omnibus—commissioned by various sponsors, public and private, domestic and international. For all projects, including commissioned ones, the raw data go into the SWS archives and are open for public research after an embargo period of three years at most.

For access to archived data, including comparative data from SWS’ networks, write SWS vice president/COO Gerardo A. Sandoval ([email protected]). SWS did 32 International Social Survey Program surveys in 1991-2022, six Asian Barometer Surveys in 2002-2021, four World Values Surveys in 1996-2019, and four surveys for the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems in 2004-2022.

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TAGS: Cebu Daily News, cebu news, data for the enlightenment, development workers, economics, New Year, Social Weather Station, survey, surveys, SWS

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