Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Undecided is growing while Voters suffer from "Villar fatigue"

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propagandist, once said that if you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes truth.

IN the case of Nacionalista party standard bearer Manny Villar, the more he hammers his pro-poor message, the more people disbelieve him. Advertising, in this case, is really not doing him any good.

As what this blog wrote a few weeks ago, Nacionalista party bet Manny Villar's survey ratings continue to plummet, but surprisingly, the previous observation that his fall would benefit Estrada seemed erroneous.

Yet, it is not about Villar's steady fall in the ratings game that is so alarming---it is the growing number of voters who are shifting, from having a choice to "undecided".

Villar feel four percentage points more, from 29% to just 25% in the latest March Pulse Asia survey. Analysts (and that includes this writer) presumed that the decrease in the ratings of Villar will benefit Estrada, but this survey did not reflect such. Instead of Estrada, the voters actually went to other candidates and most, if not, all voters who dropped Villar as their candidate went to Gordon and went from having a choice to "undecided".

From a mere 6%, the undecided now stands at 9%--similar to the figure which SWS published a few weeks back. This "Undecided" is a crucial one for the three leading presidential candidates because if one of them gets a big chunk of this "sector" of the electorate, then, he levels the playing field.

Presidential frontrunner Liberal party standard bearer Noynoy Aquino gained one percentage point higher, this time at 37%. Estrada's numbers did not change---it remained at 18%, which probably shows that the Estrada "magic" has already waned or "plateau-ed". This means that, even if Estrada's numbers suddenly gain, it will not be enough to challenge Aquino's whose numbers are slowly improving.

This survey is very important for three (3) things:

1. This contradicts earlier presumptions that the more a candidate exposes himself on media, especially television, the more he gains supporters. Villar's ads are everywhere, even in cyberspace, yet the ads were not able to arrest his slide. This is expected since advertising just tells people what's the product is but does not have the ability to further explain other features of the product, something curable by Public Relations.

I think that the public is suffering from "Villar fatigue"--people are being overwhelmed by messages about him that instead of him getting positive feedback, he is now getting negative ones. Villar probably forgot that overdoing things is simply bad. Swamping us with ads appeals to kids--not to voters. Repetition of the same message tires the mind and a mind swamped with information will definitely reject the message.

2. Aquino should not rejoice in this latest survey findings because he is not benefitting from Villar's steady slide--his opponents are. Yes, he got one percentage point higher but this does not translate into a very comfortable position for him, no. People who reject Villar are shifting not to Aquino but to other candidates and worst, going to undecided. If the "undecided" grows bigger, this will be the number which election fraudsters will use to justify a fraudulent elections.

For example, if the undecided balloons to say 12 to 15%, this figure can be used by the camps of, say Estrada to justify a win (15% plus 18% is 33%--near Aquino's 37%; Teodoro's number is at 7% plus, say 12% becomes 19%--a figure which may force a 3-way fight) or even that of the administration. Or, even Villar himself.

Remember that the biggest gainer so far in any presidential race was Estrada whose 35% vote in 1998 remains formidable. Statistically, the best that Aquino will be able to get is around 30 to 32% which is still not quite a majority vote if you ask me.

In a 3-way fight, if all bets are off, then you have Aquino getting near 30%, Villar getting near 30% and Estrada getting probably also near 30%--meaning a statistical tie. Or, the scenario may also be Aquino just squeezing a few percentage points higher than Villar and Teodoro getting the undecided votes to himself, which will propel him eventually to an even status with both Villar and Aquino.

Meaning, Pulse Asia's analyst Ana Marie Tacorda is correct afterall--the presidential race is still "anybody's game". Aquino is still not yet in the safe zone.

3. If the undecided is growing, this indicates that people are still looking for candidates to vote as president. This is bad news for both Aquino and Villar because it allows their other political opponents to gain more of the territories they are losing. This is clearly good news for Teodoro, since if this news about Teodoro losing the Arroyos' support gain traction and leads to a "perception" that Teodoro is slowly turning himself loose from the administration, then it may improve his ratings for the next survey (in the latest Pulse Asia, this alleged news about Teodoro losing Arroyo support has not been published yet).

The best thing is for Aquino to continue campaigning in the provinces, continue strengthening his support from the ABC class, continue getting more support from the E-class and fortify his political alliances in the Luzon and Mindanao regions. Aquino needs to reach out to the undecided to deter his political opponents from catching up.

For Villar, all I can say is simply desist from the public eye, decrease your ads and try to allow your senatoriables to gain more traction. Fortify your hold of the E-class and regain what you lost from the ABC class. You have three more weeks to do it.

For Teodoro--continue what you are doing because you might probably be surprised of the result. You are gaining support from the ABC class, but you are not connecting with the D-E.

IN the case of Estrada, the former president should improve his relationship with the ABC class and regain those territories he lost to Villar in the D class. If he improves his communication strategy and connects more to the ABC class, that will surely affect Villar and help him level the field in a 2-way fight with Aquino.