Survey says: How 2019 senatorial bets are faring so far

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The campaign period for national candidates for the 2019 midterm elections began in February, but even before that, many senatorial aspirants already did the rounds on social media and on the ground to increase voters' awareness of them.

Since the Pulse Asia survey of December 2018 – the first to be conducted after the aspirants filed their Certificates of Candidacy in October – polls have shown reelectionists dominating the top spots, while new names are gaining ground.

So far, Pulse Asia has conducted senatorial preference surveys for the 2019 elections per quarter in 2018, then every month in 2019 up to the last one in May, a week before the polls.

See how candidates endorsed or nominated by major political parties have fared in these Pulse Asia surveys in the graph below.

With only 12 Senate seats up for grabs in a highly-competitive field, getting into the Magic 12 range is an indicator of a senatorial bet's winning chances.

Based on each aspirant's preference rating (or the share of survey respondents who said they will be voting for him or her), Pulse Asia projected the range of the senatoriables' ranking among all the bets, as a preview of the place or rank they will most likely land on after actual votes are counted in the May elections.

In April 2019, Pulse Asia introduced a new method in its survey process – using sample official ballots instead of a list of candidates in field interviews – which affected the ratings of candidates.

Five of the 7 reelectionist senators are consistently in the top spots: Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, and Koko Pimentel.

Before the filing of COCs, Poe pulled away from everyone else in all surveys, but since January 2019, her numbers have been sliding off.

Villar has placed second behind Poe in the last 4 Pulse Asia surveys. Villar breached the 60% mark in the December 2018 survey, when she garnered 66.6%. In the February 2019 survey, she was closing in on Poe – Villar got 61%, while Poe was at 67.5%.

Villar overtook Poe in terms of ratings in April, but shared the top spot with her. The following month, Villar took the solo lead.

Angara shot up in the December survey, gaining over 21 points, from 37.1% to 58.5%, to put him in 3rd place. However, he lost steam in the January 2019 survey, falling to 48.8%. The following month, he improved a bit to 52.2%. He has since gone down from his peak rating in March, but still within the Magic 12.

Binay and Pimentel are still seen to place in the Top 12, with 32.8% and 31.7% in May, respectively. However, their numbers have likewise gone down from the January survey.

New names in the Senate race are joining the strong performers. Former Bureau of Corrections director general and ex-Philippine National Police chief Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, and Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda "Imee" Marcos have been part of the Top 12 since the surveys started in March 2018 (except in June 2018 for Marcos).

However, Marcos received a lower rating in May 2019 with 34.1%, placing her between 6th and 14th places. She got her lowest rating in April, at 29.6%.

In 2019, former presidential aide Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go entered the Top 12, placing 6th-12th in January with 44.7%, then shooting to 3rd-5th place with 53% in February. In the May survey, his rating stood lower at 42%, in 3rd-7th place.

Before his entry into the Magic 12, Go’s rating went up from 5.9% in March 2018, to 29.7% in December. In a matter of 9 months, his rating increased by nearly 24 percentage points, or grew fivefold. 

Ex-presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino also broke into the Magic 12 in February, with 32.1%. He briefly was out of that range again in April, then got back in May.

Many former senators are performing well in their comeback bids: Pia Cayetano and Lito Lapid (who still placed ahead of Binay and Pimentel in the May survey), Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, and Mar Roxas. 

Except for Roxas, all of them have received ratings above 25% in all Pulse Asia surveys so far. Since April, when he took a 20-day break from the campaign to tend to his wife and newborn twins, Roxas dipped to 24.5%, enough to bump him out of the projected winners' circle. In May, it still didn't improve, at 21.1%.

Except in March, Sergio Osmeña III has been out of the Magic 12 since the February 2019 survey. Osmeña joins ex-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who got 16.3% in May.

Meanwhile, two reelectionists have always been at the brink of the Magic 12: JV Ejercito and Bam Aquino.

Ejercito ranked at the bottom of prospective Magic 12 placers in the 4 Pulse Asia surveys in 2018. He was pushed out of the winning circle starting January 2019but crawled back in again since April.

Aquino was in and out of the Magic 12, returning to the 10th-16th range in December 2018 after suffering a 12-percentage-point decrease in September. He maintained his position in January 2019, then was seen to place only between 13th-17th in February. He's been in the Magic 12 again since March.

Among those in the Magic 12 range in the May survey, Tolentino, Marcos, and Villar got the biggest jumps from January, while Lapid, Angara, and Binay suffered the biggest drops in ratings.

The rest of the names – those with ratings below 20% – are a mix of administration and opposition bets.

How the slates are doing

PDP-Laban. With Go and Tolentino’s entry into the winning range, only Maguindanao Congressman Zajid "Dong" Mangudadatu among the 5 senatorial candidates running under PDP-Laban is behind. Mangudadatu received 15.5% in May, up from 11% in April.

Liberal Party. The performance of Otso Diretso, the opposition slate led by the Liberal Party, has not been auspicious. Since September 2018, only Roxas has consistently placed in the Magic 12 but he dropped out starting April 2019. Aquino, for his part, climbed back in the winning circle starting March 2019.

The rest of the Otso candidates have not broken the 10% barrier. The biggest gainer among them in May was election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, who improved by 1.8 percentage points to 7%.

Human rights lawyer Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno got 6.6% (up from 5.3% in April), while Marawi civic leader Samira Gutoc got 6.3% (up from 5.9%). 

The rest saw their ratings improve as well: Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano received 6.2% (from 5%), former Quezon representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III got 4.7% (from 3.6%), and former solicitor general Florin Hilbay got 3.2% (same as in April).

Hugpong ng Pagbabago. Most of the candidates endorsed by the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) party of presidential daughter Sara Duterte are also doing well.

Except for Mangudadatu, the members of the HNP slate with allied political parties nationwide are within the Magic 12: Villar, Cayetano, Marcos, Estrada, Dela Rosa, Go, and Ejercito.

Among the 5 bets who are in HNP’s longer slate for Davao region (besides the 8 in the nationwide slate), Angara, Pimentel, Revilla, and Tolentino are in the Magic 12 so far. Only former journalist Jiggy Manicad has yet to make it. (Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque withdrew from the Senate race in February.)

Other bets. These candidates also received ratings below 10% in May:

All 62 senatorial candidates were on the Pulse Asia survey in the final poll in May 2019Rappler.com

Michael Bueza

Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.

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