Survey and analytics firms set to make big bucks as 2022 election campaign goes digital

What’s in an OCTA? The research group is in the headlines again and making enough waves that PhilSTAR columnist Alex Magno described them as “busy”…

In the last OCTA Tugon ng Masa (TNM) survey, no surprising development was registered among those leading in the rankings. Sara Duterte pulled in 28 percent, Bongbong Marcos took 13 percent, Isko Moreno 11 percent, Grace Poe and Manny Pacquiao 10 percent apiece. These were the top choices tracked by other surveys and other polling outfits.

Congressmen want to probe its activities. But why? Only our esteemed honorables know. The OCTA Research Group made its presence felt when it came out with a political survey which was widely cited by mainstream media. The general reaction was, “OCTA who?” The firm is actually composed of members of the academe of the University of the Philippines (UP) and the University of Santo Tomas (UST). The country has a dearth of data analytics specialists. Data analysis plays a large-role in science-based decision-making. The last two enhanced community quarantined (ECQs) were based on the data crunched by the Department of Health (DOH). OCTA’s data is useful for mainstream media because those in the opposition use it against the government to criticize pandemic response. It is hard to criticize without numbers. OCTA now competes with the likes of SWS, Pulse Asia and Publicus in the political survey business. The more the merrier.

The Delta variant has thrown a monkey wrench into the political calendar. The Ping Lacson – Tito Sotto tandem launch has been postponed to September 8. So with the impending transfer of Isko Moreno to Aksyon Demokratiko. This makes it very tight for the administration as well. Who will run? Will it be Inday Sara “Daughterte”? Bongbong Marcos? A Bong Go – Rodrigo Duterte tandem? The President is keeping rivals guessing.

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The Opposition already has Isko “Yelorme” Moreno even if they deny it. Vice President Leni Robredo has painted herself into a corner. No sane financial backer will give campaign funds to her. This is both at the national and provincial level. Her gubernatorial run is also a difficult race because she would be up against the Villafuertes, the political overlords of Camarines Sur. It will not happen that there would a deal to be cut unless the carrot is attractive enough for Manoy Louie.

There are other candidates who are posturing in the administration because of Daughterte’s independent streak. You have Win Gatchalian and Sonny Angara looking at the Vice-Presidency. In the meantime, PDP-Laban has come out with an endorsement for Go-Duterte. But then, even the President can’t make his loyal aide win as President. This is all indicative of the power play in the President’s camp. The Davao Origs don’t want to give up power. If Daughterte runs, she will bring in her own team. This is a wise move on her part because she can’t be accused of being a figurehead leader being manipulated by her father.

Aside from the usual political theatrics, the biggest challenge is the campaign or rather, how to campaign? Rallies and sorties are out given the game-changing emergence of the Delta Variant. The advantage goes to candidates who can ride a big bike to go around the country. Anyone for a Zoom rally? This is where the barangays come into play. They will do the heavy lifting in the distribution of campaign materials and get the vote out on election day. Explainer videos will be produced for the candidates for the public to be informed of their platform. Three minutes or shorter is the norm.

In this kind of campaign environment, it’s essential to determine what’s working and what’s not. Survey companies will be raking it in. OCTA’s advantage is their relative youth. It remains to be seen if they are willing to work with administration candidates given that their academic backgrounds would make it logical that they be with the Opposition. The election will help the economy as campaign funds run into billions of pesos. This is pump-priming in another way.

The number one question which hasn’t been asked yet is if the Commission on Elections COMELEC has a plan for the conduct of the election under a pandemic environment? I don’t know if anyone has noticed but it’s only under the Duterte administration that the COMELEC Chair hasn’t made his presence felt. So much so that most people probably think James Jimenez is the COMELEC Chair. What’s certain is we live in very interesting times. It will only get more interesting in the lead up to May 2022.

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