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Not for Mother’s Day

By: Mahar Mangahas - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | May 13,2023 - 07:45 AM

The new Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey report—“47% agree it is dangerous to publish things critical of the administration; 27% are undecided, 26% disagree” (, 5/9/23)—is meant, not for Mother’s Day tomorrow, but for World Press Freedom Day, every May 3rd.

The results above are from the Agree-Disagree question, “It is dangerous to print or broadcast anything critical of the administration, even if it is the truth,” when last fielded in December 2022. They were saved for release now, in conjunction with 2023 World Press Freedom Day.

SWS designed this item on its own, as part of its advocacy for meaningful democracy. It fielded the item in 2019, 2020, 2021 (four times), and 2022. The Net Agreement has been at least +18 (May 2021) and as high as +49 (2020). The latest +20 reinforces the consensus that press freedom deserves a stronger defense.

It takes many polls for the powerful to accept adverse public sentiment as factual. The popular disbelief in the nanlaban excuse for extrajudicial killings, and the popular rejection of the foreign policy “pivot” toward China, were verified by repeated polling. Social science needs patience and perseverance for teammates.

The quarterly Social Weather Report (SWR) surveys are regular vehicles for the SWS public reports. Many of the published items are core indicators, initiated decades ago, regularly maintained, and hopefully permanent. Some topics are recurring ones, with question items modified for saliency to current conditions. Supporting tables, charts, and technical details behind my last column (“Stubborn poverty,” 5/6/23), are in “Filipino families Self-Rated as Poor steady at 51% since December 2022” and “Filipino families Self-Rated as Food-Poor rise to 39% from 34% in December 2022” (both 5/7/23). My personal analysis is independent of the SWS technical reports, which contain much more material than I have column space for.

The aforementioned poverty reports were followed last Thursday by “Hunger recovers from 11.8% to 9.8%, but still not fully back to pre-COVID-19 levels” (5/11/23). I may write about the topic in a future column, or not, or not right away.

I don’t expect readers to agree, even partially, with my analysis, treatment, tone, etc. In any case, all the original interviews are digitally archived at SWS (backed up at other locations, following best practices of archives abroad) for further study by social scientists.

A standard SWR Survey has much more data than can be published. It has two respondents: the household head, who answers dozens of questions pertaining to the household as a whole, and a randomly-chosen adult, who answers 100-200 questions about her/himself as an individual. The interviews are quite feasible if the questions are multiple-choice and respondent-friendly. Survey research is existentially dependent on the hospitality, trust, and cooperation of the people. Respect for the opinions and the privacy of survey respondents is paramount.

What makes SWS self-supporting are its dedicated projects. A few of the SWR question items are sponsored and partially cover the financial costs of the quarterly SWR surveys, involving less than 5,000 respondents in a year. What covers the full costs are the numerous sponsor-dedicated projects, which vary in number and scale from year to year. As of now, SWS has 700+ surveys, involving over a million interviews, under its belt.

Some of these non-SWR projects have findings meant for publication—as when the sponsor is a media company or a nonprofit organization. But most sponsors usually take advantage of the formally-agreed three-year confidentiality period. (The raw data of sponsored confidential projects are also archived so that any time after the end of an embargo their data may be used for open research.)

How about forthcoming holidays? Just for fun, the SWR surveys have long included items meant for Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s, and more recently for Eid’l Fitr. Our annual item on satisfaction with life is good for March 20, the International Day of Happiness (“Numbers on ‘happiness’,” 3/25/23). There was no SWS media release for Labor Day, though I know of survey data about workers that might be eyeopeners. Will there be anything for Independence Day or Ninoy Aquino Day? Having been kicked upstairs, what SWS puts out for a holiday is, thankfully, not up to me.


Contact: [email protected].

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TAGS: Mother's Day, mothers, Social Weather Stations, survey, SWS

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