Recent surveys show that there has been a decline in President Duterte’s approval and trust ratings, and mainstream media has not been shy in trumpeting this as loudly as they can. But while the headlines scream just one aspect of the results, a closer examination of the data shows that there is much more to it than meets the eye.
The dip in the ratings was largely seen among the lower income levels, a sector that will always be vulnerable to any sort of change. Aided by the constant barrage of criticism against Duterte by the opposition and the mainstream media, the only really surprising thing about this is that it did not come sooner.
But looking beyond the template reactions of mainstream media, the results actually vindicate Duterte and show that the administration is on the right track. In particular, we look at the increase in the President’s satisfaction rating with the middle class, and the high trust levels he enjoys with Filipinos aged 25 to 44.
These are the true indicators of the overall stability of the Duterte administration because it speaks directly to the economic performance of the country. Early on in his term there were fears that the administration did not have a clear program to sustain the economy. Fears that were largely fed by the opposition, aided by a complicit mainstream media industry, in the hopes of driving investors away from the Philippines and forcing the economy to take a nose dive.
It is therefore a significant victory for Duterte that his satisfaction rating with middle class Filipinos actually went up. This is a strong vote of confidence that flies directly in the face of his detractors, and provides the foundation for the economic development that would ultimately lift every Filipino up from poverty.
We can argue about politics for as long as we want, but at the end of the day people will have to have food on their tables, a roof over their heads, and some money in their pockets. And the middle class is the engine that drives the economy that makes all these possible, and so long as they are satisfied with how things are going, there is nothing to fear.
Another important, but overlooked detail of the the survey is the high trust rating that Duterte enjoys among Filipinos aged 25 to 44. This sector comprises the core of the Filipino workforce. These are the laborers, the office workers, the managers, and mid-level executives that form the bulk of our biggest industries. They are the professionals that service our communities. And this does not even take into consideration the OFW community, which is not covered by the survey, wherein Duterte has very strong support.
Taken together with the data on the middle class, this only shows that the anti-crime campaign of the government has given Filipinos the confidence to work and do business without fear from lawless elements. Just like what Duterte did in Davao, he is creating an atmosphere that is conducive to private sector driven growth, from which all else will follow. But unlike his predecessors which favored certain rich and powerful interests and individuals, Duterte has shown that he is not afraid to take on the country’s biggest tycoons, taipans, and tyrants by collecting billions in unpaid taxes and penalties due to the government. Which also explains why he is trusted by the middle class.
Given these facts, it is clear that far from the harbinger of doom that the opposition predicts, the survey merely confirms what we have been saying all along. President Duterte knows what he is doing, and the country is in good hands with him at the helm.
If anything, the survey should encourage the President’s supporters to continue sharing the good stories about the government. And refrain from passing on, reacting to, or getting tangled up in those negative stories that bring nothing but stress and reinforce the image of chaos that the opposition wants to spread.