Social Weather Stations

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Social Weather Stations
private, independent, non-partisan, non-profit scientific
Industry Research
Genre public opinion polling
Founded 1985
Founder Dr. Mahar Mangahas
Prof. Felipe Miranda
Mercedes R. Abad
Jose P. de Jesus
Ma. Alcestis Abrea-Mangahas
Gemino H. Abad
Rosa Linda Tidalgo-Miranda
Headquarters Manila, Philippines
Area served
Key people

Dr. Mahar Mangahas
Linda Luz B. Guerrero
Ricardo Abad

Ruperto P. Alonzo
Virginia A. Teodosio
Eduardo Roberto
Jasmin Acuña
Products survey data, public opinion
Revenue subscriptions
Slogan Quot Homines Tot Sententiae
(As Many Opinions As There Are People)

The Social Weather Stations or SWS is a public opinion polling body in the Philippines. It is a private, independent, non-partisan, non-profit scientific institute in the Philippines which conducts social surveys and does survey-based social science research and other educational activities, using professional standards, for the main purpose of promoting the broad Quality of Life of the greater number of the Filipino people in the context of a free democratic society.[1]

SWS is recognized by the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) for its fight for election survey freedom, and ultimate victory in the Supreme Court that benefited all survey researchers in the Philippines, not only SWS.[2]

The institution[edit]

As an independent institution, the SWS formally registered with the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC on August 8, 1985. Its mission is to regularly do scientific social surveys for the sake of education (so eyes may see social conditions), conscientization (so hearts may feel social problems); and analysis (so minds may understand their solutions).[3] Its vision is to set standards of excellence in the practice of "Statistics For Advocacy" within a democratic context: using a socially-oriented agenda, making practical technical innovations, communicating findings to the general public, and teaching the technology to other institutions. Its basic functions include: social analysis and research, with stress on social indicators and the development of new data sources; design and implementation of social, economic, and political surveys, including public opinion polls; and the dissemination of research findings through publications, seminars, briefings, and other channels.

SWS does its own fieldwork and data processing, making it a full-service survey research institute. It operates as a self-supporting, non-subsidized, academic institute for survey research on topics of public interest, deriving financial sustainability from subscriptions, commissioned surveys, social survey contracts, as well as from training and consultancy.

National Social Weather Surveys invite public subscriptions thus generating funds from survey users which are pooled together and used to for a continuing series of social surveys.

Giving priority and emphasis on credibility, SWS inhibits itself from conducting proprietary or confidential surveys. As such, no research sponsor can suppress the use of data generated by the surveys it has financed. In cases of surveys commissioned on highly sensitive topics, the sponsors may obtain a strictly temporary period of embargo of the data and of research findings.

Ultimately, all SWS surveys are accessible for research without prior permission from sponsors. SWS materials, including raw data, are also be made available to all interested parties, without discrimination, at reasonable charges reflecting the cost of production.

Philippines democracy[edit]


SWS has played an active role in Philippines democracy through the conduct of surveys, particularly the opinion polls, pre-election polls, exit polls, social weather surveys, quality of life indicators, and others.

The SWS surveys measure Filipinos' opinions on public issues, including political ones, as a democratic society. Its premise is that there are no morally right or wrong answers to the survey questions. The SWS motto Quot Homines Tot Sententiae,, meaning "As Many Opinions As There Are People," implies that SWS is open-minded to whatever the results of a survey may be.

Dr. Mangahas, president of SWS calls the SWS' activities as democratic discourse in the modern world which has particular need for scientific opinion polling during times of crisis, including the Marcos' dictatorship, the military coup attempts like the Oakwood mutiny, Juetenggate, Hello Garci scandal. According to him: "If SWS polling became controversial, we accept it as part of the trade. We are not creating controversies, but simply letting the light of day shine on them, in keeping with the final verse of the SWS Hymn: 'Yan ang aming hangarin, Demokrasya'y pagtibayin. Instrumento ng masa Sa kanilang karaingan SWS ay tinatag Layon nitong magampanan, Na ang bayan ay magising, sa katotohanan." [1]

SWS deliberately tracks poverty and hunger rather than purchasing power and nutrition, since it regards deprivation as more urgent to measure than wealth and obesity. SWS scientists have regularly participated in the global association of researchers called International Society for Quality of Life Studies (ISQOLS).

A reasonably complete survey on QOL includes governance among its topics, since "bad governance definitely makes people feel bad." [1] Quality of Life (QOL) is the generic term replacing the original, anti-economics term "social indicators" to encompass well-being in all aspects meaningful to people. QOL is always multidimensional. It is quite normal for chronically bad aspects of QOL to have priority in social science research, just as illness has normal priority over wellness in medical research.

SWS reports its core indicators, whether favorable to the administration or not, every quarter. On January 6, 2006, the SWS release to the media was "Hunger Hits Record 16.7%"; on October 13, 2003, it said "Hunger At Record Low 5.1%." According to Dr. Mangahas: "The great increase in hunger from 2003 to 2005 cannot be dismissed by the Budget Secretary's claim that Filipinos exaggerate deprivation. Assuming, for the sake of argument, a cultural tendency to overstate hunger, then such tendency should have been active in 2003 also, and could not explain the large change from 2003 to 2005." [1]

SWS' generating and publicizing alternative statistics is an activity that helps to put its subject matter higher on the agenda of public and private policymakers. SWS' data on regular topics like hunger, poverty and governance and on special topics such as corruption, the legal profession, domestic violence, and disadvantaged groups are consciously meant as "statistics for advocacy," and not for mere academic study.

SWS issues its reports through the mass media so as to reach a wide audience. But it does not do these reports for the mass media, except when a media organization commissions a survey. Dissemination of the Social Weather Reports is not solely dependent on media, but also uses other channels aimed directly at key groups of society, including academics.

The SWS National pre-election and day-of-elections surveys[edit]

Among the various survey practitioners in the Philippines, mostly commercial firms, and mostly affiliated with the Marketing and Opinion Research Society of the Philippines (MORES), SWS was for many years the only one with a policy of publishing its findings on voter preferences prior to the elections (surveys of other groups are only made public by sponsor’s permission).

The SWS pre-election polls had pointed to the narrow victory of President Fidel Ramos in 1992, the easy victory of President Joseph Estrada in 1998, and the (separate) Vice-Presidential wins of Estrada in 1992 and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 1998.

In the senatorial elections where the 12 candidates with the most votes win, all SWS predictions which were statistically conclusive have also turned out correct, this despite the inherent difficulty to predict with a small sample.

SWS day-of-election national surveys or exit polls, which started nationally in 1995 and sponsored by the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, have rendered a very valuable public service, by accurately anticipating, within 24 hours, outcomes that the election commission takes over two weeks to complete.

The Exit Poll of 1995 declared, correctly, only the first 7 candidates as senatorial winners. Of the 7 candidates it saw as tied for the last 5 seats, 4 (Tatad, Honasan, Fernan and Coseteng) eventually won. The 1995 senatorial election was extremely close, with a mere 0.2% of the vote separating the last winner’s 33.8% and the first loser’s 33.6% (Abenir and Laylo 1996).

Exit Poll 1998 not only called the presidential and vice-presidential winners, which was widely expected, but also estimated the Estrada vote as 39.2%, which was validated by the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) eventual 39.9%, and Macapagal-Arroyo vote as 50.0%, versus Comelec’s 49.6%. It correctly predicted the first 11 senatorial candidates as winners, and called the 12th place a tie between two candidates, one of whom (Oreta) eventually won officially (Mangahas 1998).

Exit Poll 2001 obtained a significant two-point spread between the 13th and the 14th ranks, inducing SWS to call the first 13 as winners, which was proven correct by the official count completed three weeks after the election. (Mangahas, Guerrero and Sandoval 2001).

The conduct and publication or broadcast of election surveys are covered by the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, and of expression, based on landmark rulings of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 133486, ABS-CBN v. Comelec, January 28, 2000, pertaining to exit polls, and G.R. No. 147571, SWS and Manila Standard v. Comelec, May 5, 2001, pertaining to pre-election surveys (Mangahas 1999, Panganiban 2000, 2001).

The 2004 election race[edit]

In 2004, leading up to the May 10 national election, SWS published five polls on electoral preferences, done on January 16–22, February 17–25, March 21–29, April 10–17, and May 1–4. The January and February surveys each had a sample size of 1,200 registered voter respondents, the March survey had 1,400 registered voter respondents, the April survey had 1,400 registered and likely voter respondents, and the May survey had 2,000 registered and likely voter respondents.

The exit poll’s ranking of candidates matches the official canvass. It understates the canvass by 2 points for FPJ and by 1 point each for Lacson, Roco, and Villanueva, all within the error margin. The counterpart of the understatements, however, is an overstatement by 2 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 5 points for GMA, resulting in an overstatement of her margin over FPJ by 7 points (Table 5). Thus whereas the exit poll, by the afternoon of May 11, suggested a substantial margin of 11 points, the official canvass eventually ended, on June 20, with a margin of only 3.5 points; this has been one dissatisfaction with the exit poll.

The exit poll’s identification of winners matched the official canvass in the case of the vice-president and 11 senators.


There were discrepancies noted in the Exit Poll results of 2004 vis-à-vis NAMFREL and Official counts. The committee, however, did not find any evidence suggesting that the Exit Poll results were deliberately skewed toward any candidate. The sample selection and interview instruments (ballots followed by questionnaires) of the Exit Poll were deemed methodologically sound. In addition, an audit of the field operations indicated that the design was faithfully executed, and that encoding errors for candidate choices were minimal and not deliberate.

Apparent discrepancies of Exit Poll with Official results were readily explained both by sampling and non-sampling errors. The latter is largely a result of biases arising from the huge percentage of non-responses coming from targeted respondents who were not available from 3 to 6 pm, and the uneven proportion of refusals across household classes (which largely arose in NCR). The committee noted that these non-responses could not be ignored, hence, had appropriate weights been applied to account for these non-responses (whether in the form of re-weighting or some imputation), estimates from the Exit Poll would have been closer to the official results.


A membership organization, its members, called Fellows, make up the General Assembly that elects its Board of Directors every year. The Fellows are distinguished social scientists in the field of economics, political science, sociology, statistics, market research, and others. Aside from the seven founding fellows, there are regular fellows comprising the membership.[3]

Founding Fellows[edit]

  1. Dr. Mahar Mangahas (currently the President and CEO)
  2. Prof. Felipe B. Miranda
  3. Mercedes R. Abad
  4. Jose P. de Jesus
  5. Ma. Alcestis Abrea-Mangahas
  6. Gemino H. Abad
  7. Rosa Linda Tidalgo-Miranda

Social Weather Surveys[edit]

The Social Weather Surveys are used for public opinion polls. They provide an independent source of pertinent, accurate, timely and credible data on Philippines economic and social conditions. The surveys fill in gaps in data not covered by existing sources. They are meant to supplement, not duplicate, existing government statistical activities.

Special surveys[edit]

Social Weather Indicators[edit]

  • Statistic Database
  • Change in quality of life
  • Expected change in quality of life
  • Expected change in the economy
  • Satisfaction with the President

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Mangahas, Mahar (2006-01-19). "What SWS Stands For: Democratic Discourse". SWS. Retrieved 2006-12-22. 
  2. ^ En Banc Decision (2001-05-05). "Social weather Stations, Inc. et al. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 147571". Supreme Court of the Philippines. Retrieved 2006-12-22. 
  3. ^ a b "Social Weather Stations Official Website". Retrieved 2006-12-22. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]