Surveys: the Defensor-Biron Trilogy

By: Limuel S. Celebria

IN A previous column, we noted that a set of surveys conducted over an eight month period on the gubernatorial race in the province of Iloilo between 3rd District Congressman Arthur Defensor Sr. and 4th District Cong. Ferjenel Biron, make a for a perfect case study on the importance of surveys. Let’s take a look.

In July 25 to 29, 2018, local polling firm Random Access Consultants, Inc. conducted a voter preference survey on who Iloilo voters would elect for governor. In that province-wide survey Defensor got an overall voter preference of 60.7 percent while Cong. FerjenelBiron, got 32.2 percent only.

In October 2018, Defensor Jr. and Biron filed their respective certificates of candidacy for Governor, making the rivalry official.

Two months later, RACI conducted another Iloilo wide survey on December 8-14 on who Iloilo voters would vote for governor. The result, Biron had managed to close the gap between him and Defensor, with Biron getting 47.2 against his opponent’s 51.5. With the difference falling within range of the survey’s margin of error (+/-3 percent), pollsters would describe the result as a statistical tie.

The third survey on Iloilo’s premier race was conducted by a different but no less credible polling firm – Philippine Survey and Research Center, a decades old company utilized by national media and the advertising industry.  The survey, conducted February 16 to 21, 2019, showed a drastic turn around with Biron now winning with 52 percent against Defensor’s 38 percent for a significant 14 percent margin.

What happened? The result of the July 2018 survey was not a surprise for Biron. Remember he already lost miserably to Defensor in the 2013 polls. The July survey result simply meant that when it comes to provincial politics, Defensor (who has been governor for 18 years) is a well-established, highly-recognized brand name. In contrast, Biron, whose politics had been largely confined to the fourth district, is little known to the rest of the province. When it comes to provincial politics, Biron is Brand X.

Clearly, Biron had his work cut out for him. Immediately after the filing of CoCs, Biron moved to propagate his name in the province of Iloilo. He advertised massively – using traditional, non-traditional, as well as digital media. Through radio and television spots, through Facebook posts, as well, he told the people of Iloilo his personal and family history, his life principles, his work ethic and philosophy, and his aspirations for the province of Iloilo and its people.

He introduced himself and his message repeatedly. Perhaps, it can be said here that Biron’s messaging is also the product of a survey – a deep research into what the people of Iloilo actually need, what they want to happen with their lives, and with their future. And one thing is sure, they’ve grown tired of being slapped with slogans and promises of more of the same in their future.

Apart from advertising, however, Biron also engaged in direct marketing, introducing his brand to the people with an endless cavalcade of gatherings – seeking out leaders and persons of influence all over the province. In this, his effort was greatly boosted by no less than the congressmen and mayors in each district calling their supporters for an almost daily meet and greet with Biron. And they all went home smiling, glad to have met Doc Ferj Biron and his brand of servant leadership.

All the while, what did his opponent do? He was probably relying on the father’s brand name to carry them through. He hardly met with leaders outside of his district. He did advertise. But it was a token effort and the messaging was weak, if not faulty. Clearly, Defensor Jr. was basking on reflected glory and may be counting on the wherewithal of the provincial government under his father’s control.

It’s about two months and a half before the people actually go to the polls to select who they want to lead the province for the next three years, at least. But this early, all indications show Biron now enjoying the edge and the momentum.

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