Know what voters want — De Vera

VERA Files
Tinig Ng Botante

Video by Lucille Sodipe, VERA Files

Cebu City--It’s a campaign strategist’s dilemma: should one change a candidate’s image to match what voters want, or keep the image and try to reverse voters’ perception of what they need.

This was one of the issues political analyst Dr. Prospero De Vera faced when he was planning Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel, Jr.’s campaign strategy in 2002, two years before the 2004 presidential elections.

De Vera, a professor at the University of the Philippines, discussed this and other ways of packaging a candidate in VERA Files' VOTE 2013: In-Depth Reporting on the 2013 Elections.

He shared how he and his team handled and strategized the campaign for Pimentel, who was eyeing the highest position in the land but was low on funds.

Sabi ko, kaysa magpa-dedicated survey tayo, ang mahal-mahal, bilhin natin lahat ng raw data from Pulse [Asia] and Social Weather Stations (I told them, instead of having another dedicated survey that will cost us too much, let’s buy all raw data from Pulse and SWS).”

And that’s what they did. They got all survey data on Pimentel since 1988 from Pulse Asia and SWS and developed an analysis from the gathered information. “You know how much it cost me to do that? P60,000 lang. Ang dedicated survey dalawang milyon (You know how much it cost me to do that? Only P60,000. A dedicated survey would have cost us P2 million),” he said.

According to De Vera, Pimentel’s image is that of a fighter, but that was not what the public was looking for based on collated survey findings.

Anong lumabas? Kasi si Nene di ba hindi corrupt, lumalaban, ganyan. Ang problema hindi yan ang hinahanap ng botante. Hinahanap madaling lapitan (What’s the result? Nene is not corrupt, a fighter, and all that. The problem is, that is not what voters are looking for. They are looking for someone accessible).

And there lies the dilemma, he said. “Do I change Nene Pimentel and make him look like madali siyang lapitan, para mag-match (he’s approachable, so it will match)? Or do I keep on making him talk about graft and corruption and (project) na matalino siyang tao (and showcase his intelligence)?”

The second option is more difficult as it entails changing people’s perceptions. But it is good for voters’ education. “Para iyong persepsyon ng botante magpalit, na ang hanapin sa kandidato, hindi yung madaling lapitan kundi yung mapagkakatiwalaan, matalino, etc. (That way we change people’s perception that instead of looking for approachability in a candidate, they will look for intelligence and trustworthiness),” he said.

“Sabi ko kay Nene, if you don’t hit double digits one year before the elections, senador ka na lang, buti nakinig naman (I told Nene, if you don’t hit double digits one year before the elections, run for senator instead. Good thing he listened),” De Vera added.

(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for true.)