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Knowing the Filipino voters

COMMONNESS By Bong R. Osorio (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 10, 2015 - 12:00am

Publicus Asia, Inc. undertook a psychographic survey analysis of Filipino voters last February.
The next presidential election is still 10 months away, but this early, the political fever is on. Soon, we will be
flooded with messages meant to get our support. There will be imaging propositions to replace 2010s most
memorable political lines:
President Noynoy Aquinos Tuwid na Daan and Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap; Manny Villars Sipag a
t Tiyaga; Joseph Estradas Tapat sa Mahirap; Gibo Teodoros Galing at Talino; Dick
Gordons Laging Gising Para Sa Bayan; and Bro. Eddie Villanuevas Tungo sa Bagong Pilipinas.
Projecting a palatable public persona just like communicating the merits of a new product has always
been important in political contests; and in the context of present-day election campaigning it has always
recognized the value of a clear image and unassailable reputation. We live in an era where image takes on an
additional and critical importance. It covers how a person looks and how he or she is seen and is being sold.
To understand the Filipino voter better, I sat as a reactor in the presentation of the Political Mindscape 2, a
national psychographics survey done by the Philippines first and only registered lobbying and political
management firm, Publicus Asia.
The non-commissioned survey was conducted by Vox Opinion Research, Publicus technical arm, from Feb. 22
to 4 March, which covered political interests, attitudes, opinions and beliefs of young voters between the ages

17 and 45 (millennials and the tail end of Gen Xers). It also included interviews with a nationally representative
sample of young Filipinos.
Here are key takeaways culled from the presentations done by Dr. Clarissa David of UP College of Mass
Communication, and Ma. Lourdes Tiquia, founder of Publicus:
Candidates should realize that elections are not about them, but more about the voters. They can
connect more effectively if they understand what makes them stand out in terms of shared interests, attitudes
and opinions. With psychographics, for example, it will no longer be about a mass bombardment of TV ads
where frequency the number of times an ad is aired rules over reach or the coverage of the airing of the
ad.

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There are two kinds of votes: market and command. The former is accurately describes a freely transacting
mass of voters responding, much like the modern consumer, to media stimulus in making their electoral
decisions. How one makes sense of and pays attention to market votes is a function of psychographic
variables. Command votes are block votes, which to many are easier to deal with because those are the
candidates hard support.
Segmentation, targeting and positioning of the voters can only be made if the candidate knows his
voters. Our electorate can be classified as High Anxiety, Low Information and Moderate Expectations. Political
campaigns typically do a good job of connecting with the first two categories and a relatively poor job with the
moderates. The Filipino voters can be categorized into five segments: the Sparks form 16 percent of total
Philippines, are found in urban areas, and with higher representation of non-working groups. They are
interested to be updated with political issues in the local government and believe voting is an expression of
citizenship and politics. The Detached Conservatives 12 percent of total are found in rural areas, with
higher Muslim representations. They most likely will not vote, either because they consider the election system
in their area too complicated or they are affected by personal commitments. They doubt that politics improves
society.
The Ambivalents about 26 percent are mostly Visayan-speaking residents with the lowest incidence of
Internet usage and smart phone ownership. They see politics as irrelevant to societys progress. Those in
control form 23 percent of total country, mostly Ilonggo speaking residents. Voting matters to them, and they
believe it is instrumental in improving society. They have the patience to examine and scrutinize political
candidates. The Catalysts are mostly from the rural areas, politically engaged, and make an effort to know
much more about politics and elections. They perceive voting positively.
Voters care most about character. Each election candidate brings to the table a unique set of
characteristics and propositions. Journalists, voter advocates, writers, and interest groups frequently opine that
Filipinos should think about platforms rather than personality when considering the people running for office.
Results of this survey show that young voters still put candidate character above experience, positions, and
education when considering their votes for president and senator.
It is simplistic to say, however, that people vote on personality. Among a long list of a persons features, voters
most frequently chose these traits as most important in considering their choice for president: MakaDiyos (God-centered), may malasakit

(compassionate), mabilis magdesisyon at kumilos (decisive), matalino (Intelligent),


and mapagkakatiwalaan (trustworthy).
Probing further on how best to show compassion for the people or pag-mamalasakit sa kapwa, adults expect a
compassionate presidential candidate to prioritize his countrymens welfare by providing livelihood,
medical/health benefits, assistance during calamities/tragedies, scholarships and housing projects instead of
taking personal advantage of the countrys wealth. It is also apparent that a presidential candidates previous
political experience plays an important role in the voters considerations; only a fourth are willing to consider a
presidential candidate with no or limited political experience.
Issues the next president should be able to address. Livelihood or jobs education, economy, health care,
and curving corruption are the top local issues that the next elected president should be able to address.
Corruption is often identified as one of the biggest problems in Philippine politics. The voters though, believe
that the issue of corruption is fixable if the leader that is chosen is against it.
Many young voters agree that elections do not bring about change. This is a cynical view of elections
that does not necessarily mean they will not participate in the process, since almost all of them say they intend
to vote in 2016.
The cellphone is preferred over landline as a platform of communication to reach voters. This is
happening because of the availability of cheaper handsets and prepaid denominations, and various unlimited
call and text offers. Cellphone ownership and usage is almost universal nine in 10 own a cellphone and four
in 10 are actually smartphone owners. Internet access at home is limited to about a tenth of the adult
population; others access the Internet through cafes, at school or office, and through data connection.
Communicating remotely to the voters can be explored through SMS and web/social media. However, receiving
SMS related to a political candidate, especially a presidential contender, is seen to be unappealing for the
majority of voters.
TV is still the most popular medium for advocating ads for political personalities, Radio and posters
come far behind. Almost half of the respondents claim that they had a better opinion about certain political
personalities after seeing their political ads on TV, specifically those from South Luzon and Mindanao.
Readership of news via the Internet is at the same level as the newspapers reach. Thats about a fifth of
the adult population. Adults from NCR, urban areas, class ABC homes and 17 to 24-year-olds read news online
at least four times a week. Those from rural areas, class E and older age group, 35 to 45, are least likely to
access news on the Internet.
Only about half of the adult population express confidence in the reliability of the results of polling
surveys. Thats slightly lower compared to the awareness scores of polling surveys since more than six in 10
are aware of opinion surveys. Interestingly, only about a third of those who acknowledge the trustworthiness of
survey results admit that they will not change their voting preference based on the output of polls.
Recommendation of family has the biggest influence on who to vote. Majority consider the
recommendations of their family to have the biggest impact on their choice of candidates they will put on their
ballot. The information or communication they see on TV comes in second, with the recommendations from
public officials and friends, and word-of-mouth within their neighborhood completing this list.

Most Filipinos do not think about whom to vote for until a month before the election or less. Voters
preference may differ or change on election day. Their final choice depends on the political TV ads that they will
be exposed to, more notably among the voters in Visayas and Mindanao. Around four in 10, on the other hand,
may change their decision based on the sample ballots, political jingles and posters that will be propagated on
election day. Endorsement of the incumbent president is also ranked one of the highest, particularly in
Mindanao.
In the next few months, we will be witnessing a battle of political brands. As records will show, most of them are
expected to spend big bucks to get known, recalled, and preferred. We will see a lot of image marketing at
work. As we encounter these seemingly flash presentations, we must go beyond the faade and decipher a
candidates inner and deeper qualities with more vigor.
***
Email bongosorio@yahoo.com or bong_osorio@abs-cbn.com for comments, questions or suggestions. Thank
you for communicating.