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What surveys failed to predict in the Senate race

MANILA, Philippines – Pulse Asia Research and the Social Weather Stations both predicted that Senate President Franklin Drilon will top the Senate race, although pre-election polls indicated he would get more votes – at least 10 percentage points more – than what the results are showing.

Eleven of the 12 candidates in both surveys’ winning circles are set to be proclaimed at 3 pm Thursday, May 19, based on the unofficial tally – unless 13th placer Francis Tolentino succeeds in stopping the proclamation of the last 3 winners.

But the polls, despite the increased sample size for the 2016 elections, failed to predict the outcomes for at least 4 candidates. A comparison of the ranking of candidates in the pre-electoral polls and results based on the unofficial tally shows shrinking support for former senator Francis Pangilinan and incumbent Senator Sergio Osmeña III. 

It also shows the surprising rise of the 2nd placer, former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) chief Joel Villanueva and, to a certain extent, former senator Richard Gordon. (READ: Joel Villanueva's messaging, 'very good network' behind rise – Tabunda)

Pangilinan, who ranked 3rd in the pre-electoral polls, ranked 9th – well within the so-called "Magic 12" – based on the unofficial tally with 96% of precints reporting. But Osmeña was dislodged from 6th-12th places in the pre-electoral polls, and ended in 14th place in the unofficial tally. 

Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian, who ranked 13th in both the Pulse Asia and SWS polls, replaced Osmeña in the winning circle.

Osmeña ranked 6th-12th in the final Pulse Asia pre-election survey and 6th-8th in the SWS poll, with more than a third of the respondents saying they would vote for him. The unofficial tally showed him getting only 22% of the voter turnout. 

The final SWS pre-electoral poll showed Osmeña leading 13th placer Gatchalian by 4 percentage points. The poll conducted among 4,500 respondents from May 1 to 3 had a +/- 1% error margin. 

In a Rappler interview a day after elections, Pulse Asia research director Ana Tabunda said there were signs of "junking." Tabunda suggested that the candidates themselves did not campaign for entire tickets, but asked supporters to carry only a few candidates to boost their chances of winning. 

Osmeña is one of two incumbent senators and scions of old political families who failed to win new terms. The other is Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III, whose defeat – 17th place, based on the unofficial tally – was not a surprise. He had been out of the winners' circle since March, based on the surveys. 

Villanueva, for his part, ranked 8th in the pre-electoral polls with 31% of respondents saying they would vote for him. It is consistent with the results so far – 18 million votes.

Villanueva's rise is likened to that of Grace Poe, who topped the 2013 Senate race. Poe ranked 5th in the final SWS pre-election poll

Gordon also ranked higher in the actual results than in the polls, from 9th-10th to 5th. He has registered 30% support from voters, also consistent with his pre-election poll numbers.

The winning circle is composed of 3 incumbent senators (Drilon, Vicente Sotto III, and Ralph Recto), 4 returning senators (Panfilo Lacson, Gordon, Miguel Zubiri, and Pangilinan), and 5 new faces at the Senate (Villanueva, Manny Pacquiao, Riza Hontiveros, Gatchalian, and Leila de Lima). – Carmela Fonbuena/