By Beting Laygo Dolor, Contributing Editor

Surveys from the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia that show President Rodrigo Duterte enjoying exceptionally high popularity with the people may not be based on solid footing.

So says a study conducted by the Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Government.

The study, co-written by Tristan Canare, Ronald Mendoza, Leo Jaminola, and Jurel Yap,  found “scant evidence that economic links are tied to presidential  satisfaction.”

This, after a separate SWS survey found that 54 percent of Filipino families — or a total of 13.1 million families — consider themselves poor.

The Ateneo School of Government commissioned its own survey in July, last year, among 1,200 low-income families in Metro Manila. The survey found that the respondents were “somewhat satisfied” with Duterte, giving him a net satisfaction rating of +61.

The study released last week revealed, “there is evidence of herd behavior and partial evidence of disinformation possibly linked to presidential net satisfaction.”

Apparently, surveys taken soon after a previous survey showing the President as highly popular then disseminated to conventional, as well as social media, tend to sway the thinking of the respondents.

Critics of the SWS surveys showing Duterte’s high popularity have questioned why the company does not identify who pays for the surveys and how the questions were framed.

If funded by the government as generally believed, doubts arise as to the objectivity of the results.

Also, considering that there are more than 100 million Filipinos, having just 1,200 respondents to represent everybody further raises questions on the accuracy of the results.

As expected, the Duterte administration questioned the results of the Ateneo survey, with Presidential Communications Operations Office Sec. Martin Andanar saying it was “baseless and unfounded.”

According to Andanar, the study apparently failed to check on what he called the “actual realities” which contribute to the surge in the public’s satisfaction with Duterte’s work performance.

Said Andanar: “We are disappointed with the weak and unrealistic outcomes generated by a study promulgated by the students of the Ateneo School of Government.”

He added that “the significant and obvious deficiencies of the study were not able to correlate the assumptions and claims it made to the actual realities of the different communities which they say contributed to the increasing satisfaction ratings of President Duterte.”

Andanar did not say if he read the study in its entirety. He, however cited a Philippine Statistics Authority report that said 5.9 million Filipinos had been lifted out of poverty by the Duterte administration’s economic policies.

SWS and Pulse Asia are the top two survey firms in the country. The former came out with a study last December that showed an incredible 82 percent of adult Filipinos satisfied with Duterte’s performance, while only 10 percent said they were dissatisfied.

Also last December, a Pulse Asia survey showed Duterte continued to enjoy public satisfaction on his work ethic. The survey stated that from 78 percent approval rating in September last year, the President’s approval rating climbed to 87 percent.

With these results, Andanar said the Ateneo study’s conclusions were easy to refute.

“The right conditions set by the (Ateneo) study on its respondents to conclude that presidential net satisfaction ratings of President Duterte may be a product of disinformation seems like a set-up that will give them their desired outcome, given that the questions are not common knowledge or about matters of importance to the respondents and that they can only answer yes or no,” he said.

Andanar ended by saying that Duterte’s high satisfaction ratings was “a reflection” of the people’s sentiment and should thus be respected.