THE April 4 to 6 Manila Standard poll shows that the kind of news voters receive have a significant impact on presidential preferences.
In the recent survey, Senator Benigno Aquino III continues to lead the pack and his margin over Senator Manuel Villar Jr. is 11 percentage points. What has helped him maintain the upper hand?
The latest poll gives a glimpse into how the mass media, particularly television news, are influencing the voting public by framing the agenda. In the case of the current status of the presidential race, what the media report has created an effect on presidential vote decisions.
The extent of news awareness of voters about presidential candidates remains high, especially for the top two contenders Aquino (73 percent) and Villar (79 percent). Levels of news awareness for Estrada and Teodoro are also in the majorities (60 percent and 55 percent, respectively), but not as high as those of Aquino and Villar.
For the April 4 to 6 Manila Standard poll, voters were also asked to qualify, overall, whether the kind of news they had received regarding the candidates were mostly positive or mostly negative.
The results show Aquino having an edge, with 75 percent of those aware of news about him saying they received mostly positive news.
For Villar, the figure was only 62 percent; for Estrada, only 52 percent; and for Teodoro, only 58 percent. The percentages of those who received mostly negative news about the presidential candidates were as follows: 25 percent for Aquino, 38 percent for Villar, 48 percent for Estrada and 42 percent for Teodoro.
The impact of access to news and the quality of news voters received about presidential candidates can be assessed by looking at the vote conversion rates.
Aquino’s 37 percent vote share jumps to 41 percent among those who were aware of news about him and jumps even higher to 48 percent among those who say that the kind of news they received about him were mostly positive.
For Villar, his 25 percent vote share only delivers a measly 28 percent if they are aware of news about him and moves to only 34 percent among those who assessed that the type of news they received about him were positive.
The multiplier effect works to the advantage of Aquino, who has significantly more voters saying that the kind of news they have received regarding him were mostly positive.
Given that the vote conversion rates of Estrada, Teodoro and all the other presidential candidates are much lower, coupled with the relatively lower levels of news awareness as well as lower levels of perceived positive news generated about them, they currently stand little to gain in terms of votes.
The trust levels of candidates also continue to play an important part in explaining the presidential race. The latest survey continued to show declines in net trust ratings for the leading contenders. But it is important to note that Aquino’s drops in net trust levels (from +54 in February to +50 in March to +46 in early April) were not as bad as Villar’s decreasing net trust levels (from a high +53 in February to +35 in March to +28 in early April). The net trust levels of other candidates were all way below the two leading contenders.
The trust-to-vote conversion rates offer additional evidence of why Aquino continues to lead the presidential race. Aquino’s voter conversion rate among those who trust him continues to be high at 55 percent—an eight-point jump from 47 percent in February. In the case of Villar, it moved by only three points up—from 43 percent in February to 46 percent in April.
What is the relationship between the types of news received by voters on the presidential candidates with their levels of trust for them?
Tests of correlation show that the kind of news received by voters drive the level of trust voters have for the presidential candidates.
This means that the more positive news voters say they received about a candidate, the greater trust they have for that specific candidate.
Where do voters get most of their information? In the series of Manila Standard polls, voters were asked their most trusted source of news. A great majority—ranging from 80 percent to 85 percent —of voters nationwide trust TV programs as their major source of news.
Only about 9 percent cite radio programs, 6 percent cite word of mouth, and 1 percent cite newspapers. The rise of television as the medium by which most voters secure information on candidates, specifically those running for the highest posts, has become prevalent in past elections.
When probed on what TV news programs voters considered trustworthy, 60 to 63 percent of the viewing public considered news and public affairs programs from the ABS-CBN network compared to about 35 to 38 percent who mentioned news and public affairs programs from the GMA network. About 2 percent mentioned news programs from other TV networks.
Linking this with the type of news received by the voting public for each of the presidential candidates, we now can see a better picture of how Aquino was able to maintain his current lead in the presidential race. Positive TV news coverage generates greater trust, which in turn translates into a higher vote conversion for presidential candidates.
It is also a clear indication of how the mass media— particularly TV news—are currently influencing how the voting public should view the presidential candidates, thus affecting their vote decisions.
In the succeeding Manila Standard polls, as we get closer to Election Day, we shall see if such a pattern persists and if it will define the final presidential election results.
The results of the Manila Standard Today poll and The Laylo Report can be accessed on the Web at http://mstpoll.wordpress.com. Questions, comments can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. –Pedro Laylo Jr., Manila Standard Today