Chief Justice Renato Corona: The “Un-Verdict” of Two Surveys

According to the Filipino public, is Chief Justice Renato Corono guilty?  Well, that depends.

The GMA News website carried a March 29 headline that bannered: “SWS: …73% prefer guilty verdict.” ( while another headline a few days earlier: Pulse Asia: 47% of Pinoys believe Corona guilty.”  What explains the 26% difference?

Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations conducted their own independent surveys regarding the Filipino’s perception of the impeachment case filed against Chief Justice Renato Corona. In the Pulse Asia Survey, done between Feb 26 to March 9, only 15% of the respondents believed that the Chief Justice was definitely guilty ( However, in the Social Weather Stations survey, conducted between March 10-13, a large 73% of the respondents preferred a guilty verdict.  Could the difference of timing, one survey started after the other has ended, explain the difference in the results? Sampling size difference? Probably not.

The answer depends on the question.

Interestingly, an examination of the survey question and response options used by the two survey companies shows a difference that could explain how the respondent reacted to the question. In the Pulse Asia survey, the respondents were asked regarding their own judgement (Of the charges Chief Justice Corona is accused, would you say that he is….) while the Social Weather Stations survey phrased the question differently by invoking the Senate (Ano po ang gusto ninyong maging hatol ng Senado ukol sa impeachment trial? Gusto po ba ninyo na ang maging hatol ay GUILTY or HINDI GUILTY?).  The SWS question seem to be less threatening or personal as it deflects partially the responsibility of judgement to the Senate. In addition, the phrasing of the questions asks for a preference (ano ba ang gusto ninyo) versus an actual personal choice or decision of guilt (masasa bi mo ba na siya ay…..).


Finally, in the Pulse Asia question, the respondents can choose between a range of responses (definitely guilty, probably guilty) while in the SWS survey, the respondents had a more forced response (Guilty, Not Guilty, Dont Know/Refused). Again, the phrasing of the questions, as well as the answers/options format, provided to the respondents played a part in the higher 73% of SWS respondents who preferred a guilty verdict by the Senate vs the 43% Pulse Asia respondents who believed probably or definitely in the guilt of the Chief Justice.

Undecided/Uncertain  At A Significant Level

As an additional comment, it should be noted that one major significant difference between the Pulse Asia and the SWS survey results involved the % of respondents who were undecided/uncertain about the guilt or innocence of the Chief Justice. In the SWS survey, only around 3% of the respondents were undecided while a large 85% of the Pulse Asia remained undecided or uncertain  (sum of  % of Filipinos who were still undecided, 43%; probably guilty, 33%; probably innocent, 4%; don’t have enough basis, 5%). How can Filipinos turn from being 43% “undecided” to only 3% undecided, or a difference of 40%, in two surveys conducted just a few days apart? Again, the type of question and the format of the response options of the SWS survey could have contributed to a much higher % of respondents preferring a guilty verdict.

One wonders what Pontius Pilate would have done if he commissioned Pulse Asia or SWS to conduct a survey on the guilt or punishment of you know who.

Additional Reading:

Chief Justice Corona: Statistically Guilty

Popular Constitutionalism in the Corona Impeachment

~ by Martin Gaerlan on March 29, 2012.

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