Saying everything and nothing at the same time

In his most recent column, Manuel Quezon III (MLQ3), debunks the enthusiasm of some on the Teodoro camp by saying that the ‘mock polls’ conducted through Facebook are precisely that — mock.

He follows an absurd double standard by discrediting the ‘trending’ of the mock poll and suggesting that the number of ‘fans’, ‘followers’, and ‘multiply connections’ are more accurate indices of support. He writes, “Another way to measure commitment to the candidates is by means of Twitter, where people can follow people and candidates they like” (emphasis mine).

I hope he was being sarcastic.

I find no difference between either the mock poll results or the social network connections that these candidates have. Both are phony.

But if we insist, here are some considerations that have to be made in “interpreting” membership in these social networks.

One — economic class. It has been well documented that bulk of Internet users belong to the middle class and higher. I am not surprised by the poor showing of Estrada and Villar in Facebook — or Villar’s stronger showing in Friendster (which undoubtedly has a larger mass base, and which the upper classes have long abandoned for Facebook). Villar’s earlier campaign also included a reach out to Multiply.

Second — longer-term Internet trends. The death of Cory Aquino led to a massive surge in interest in the Aquinos, the color yellow, and Bench T-shirts. There is no doubt that Noynoy Aquino rode this surge, thus giving him a massive media mileage that trumped even the well-moneyed Villar.

Thus the question I want to raise to MLQ3 is this: How much time did Noynoy’s groups have to gestate and grow vis-a-vis the group of a lesser known candidate like Teodoro? How many members in these groups — particularly the 109,349-strong fan page of his — joined in August? September? October? November? Moreover, are these groups truly exclusive of each other? For instance, I joined Noynoy’s last September then Teodoro’s just last night, and I am sure I am not the only one. (I think I’m part of Risa Hontiveros’s too, but not for political reasons.)

Third — the very composition of the groups. Most of my students with a Facebook account have joined the fan groups of at least two candidates — and none of them are of voting age this coming election.¬†Moreover, let’s not pretend we don’t know how these groups work. We know very well how membership in them can be due to fads, image, or peer influence. Following someone on Twitter is not always an act of commitment (which, I take MLQ3 to mean the give-and-take citizen kind of commitment he has always advocated for). Do we have the numbers on how many of this really joined out of conviction and principle? Does that even matter?

For if one will assert that the numbers speak for themselves, or that there are simply too many members in Noynoy’s group to question its legitimacy, then we can use the same flimsy logic to assert that the trends in the Facebook “survey” clearly show a steady rise in Teodoro’s numbers — after all who can question 12% to 63%!

My point is, all of these are unscientific. Let us not over-inflate the importance of these Internet tools. Authentic web platforms and tools can be developed to measure public opinion of course — and I believe that they should — but none of these are that yet. None of these really tell us anything despite the attempt of partisans on both sides to read the tea leaves.

I agree, MLQ3, that there is no Facebook survey, that the results of that Election2010 can be seriously misrepresentative of the true pulse of the people, and that any attempt to draw conclusions from them is severely irresponsible.

But when you pointed out the disparities in Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, and Multiply connections, I was left wondering why you didn’t go into discussing the inconsistencies of their membership or why, despite your command of the Internet and the Philippine blogosphere, you took their numbers at face value. That struck me as a tad irresponsible too.

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4 Comments

  1. I do follow most of the candidates on twitter although I have made up my mind on who I’m voting for. Uh – it’s not Aquino.

  2. I’ve been meaning to write something like this, too, to answer MLQ3’s consistent double standards (this is not the first time) whenever he lashes at other candidates and praises his own Noynoy Aquino.

  3. I would not concern myself with surveys or mock elections. From today till campaign period, I believe that every candidate should be on same playing field. I would want to study each presidentiables platform, stand on critical issues, scrutinize their claims, then compare . All these mock elections /surveys are totally useless for voters’ education.

  4. Hi,

    I built Election 2010 and run it with my own meager resources.

    The current focus of Election 2010 is to get a critical mass of participants so that it goes viral. Eventually, it can be transformed into a tool for voters education.

    Any suggestions to make it better? Perhaps another blog post to help me get the critical mass?

    Thanks anyways.

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