Voters looking for strongman leadership, empathy – analysts

KD Suarez
Voters looking for strongman leadership, empathy – analysts
Analyst Clarissa David and sociologist Jayeel Cornelio say candidates who are running on anti-crime platforms – but are also expressing empathy – will win voters' allegiance


MANILA, Philippines – The revolution that overthrew dictator Ferdinand Marcos happened only 30 years ago, but his son, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, may be inching closer to the vice presidency as he continues to top pre-election surveys less than a month before the May polls.

For political analyst and communications expert Clarissa David, the younger Marcos’ surge in popularity could be attributed to his anti-crime platform – an issue that resonates with voters today.

“What wins voters’ allegiance is the issue of the day. When [President Benigno] Aquino was running in 2010, the biggest problem was corruption, and he ran on a platform of anti-corruption,” David said on Sunday, April 10, before the vice presidential debate at the University of Santo Tomas.

Six years later, the focus has changed, with voters identifying crime as the biggest problem that the Philippines currently faces.

“If you look at the candidates, who are the ones running on a platform against crime and [imposing] order? That’s [Davao City Mayor Rodrigo] Duterte and Marcos,” she said.

Both Marcos and Duterte are topping pre-election surveys, though they are closely tied with their other rivals. Marcos is statistically tied for the top spot with Senator Francis Escudero in the latest poll of The Standard conducted by Laylo Research Strategies.

Duterte, meanwhile, is tied for first place with Senator Grace Poe in Laylo’s presidential survey.

For Rappler editor-at-large Marites Vitug, Marcos’ lead at the polls was a “shock and surprise,” especially considering his “infamous” name.

Sociologist Jayeel Cornelio, meanwhile, pointed out an interesting trend: that the bulk of Marcos’ supporters were not the voters too young to experience martial law.

“What we’re seeing is that it’s not young people supporting Duterte and Marcos. It’s those 35 years old and above,” Cornelio said.

Cornelio also posed another hypothesis on which candidates may be poised to win next month’s elections: candidates who can enforce discipline, but at the same time can express empathy.

He said that while the Aquino administration may be credited for its economic achievements, it has been criticized for its lack of empathy, or resonating with the citizens’ concerns.

Other candidates have begun to change their messaging to incorporate this aspect, according to Cornelio.

“Duterte, inasmuch as he is a strongman from Davao, his message has changed in the past weeks. Now he’s standing alongside children…. What we’re seeing is that there are clear attempts by the strongmen to express empathy,” he said.

“People are looking for discipline, but they’re also looking for a mother. The candidate that sends that dual message will win,” he added. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.