As Filipinos continue to cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens expect candidates for the 2022 national elections to have a clear plan for the country’s economic recovery.
This is one of the findings of Outlook on the New Filipino Voter, a study conducted by communications consultancy firm EON Group. The report aims to gain insights on Filipinos’ involvement in the election process, including who influences their votes and issues that matter most to them.
EON’s think tank Trust Central partnered with market research firm Tangere to survey 6,000 Filipinos across diverse backgrounds from May 24-26 through the Tangere mobile app. It also gathered insights from Groundswell, EON’s proprietary social listening tool that analyzed online conversations relevant to the 2022 elections between September 2020 and March 2021.
“The past 18 months have been an unprecedented time of upheaval for Filipinos, making the upcoming elections a crucial one,” says Junie Del Mundo, Chief Executive of the EON Group. “As election season approaches, it is important for those planning to run for public office to listen to the voters’ concerns and to understand their values and principles. It’s also crucial for social institutions to learn where and how Filipinos source their election information so they can engage with them more effectively.”
Increased level of political involvement
Ninety-seven percent of the survey respondents said they plan to vote in the upcoming polls, an increase of 25 percentage points from the 2019 elections. Voters view their participation in the electoral process as an opportunity to effect change and exercise their right as citizens. For most of them, this means voting for both local and national positions.
The participation rate can still increase as 2022 approaches. According to the study, 13% of Millennial and Gen X voters are still undecided on whether they would cast their ballot while 17% of the Gen Z respondents are still weighing their options. For first-time voters aged 18-21 years old, 21% remain uncertain about their political involvement. With voter registration ending on September 30, they can still be convinced to vote in the elections.
Respondents also showed a high level of political involvement with their awareness of national issues. Around two-thirds of those surveyed are aware of national and city/municipal issues and programs, while half are familiar with issues and programs even at the barangay level.
In addition, most respondents say they highly value the sanctity of the ballot and believe that their vote should not be sold at any cost.
Economic growth a primary concern
More than three-fourths of the survey participants come from low-income households and 71% of the respondents view elected officials as the country’s economic managers. Given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Philippine economy, voters across all age groups want candidates to present clear plans for economic recovery and job creation on their platforms.
The respondents are not single-issue voters, however. They also want political aspirants to address other non-negotiable issues such as the government’s response to the pandemic, corruption in the government, national security and territorial integrity, and the fight against crime, particularly against illegal drugs.
Influences on their choices of candidates
The report also found that Filipinos across all age groups cite a candidate’s “winnability” or ability to win over the public as one their top four considerations when making their choices. This makes voters vulnerable to the bandwagon effect, especially with the tools made available by digital technology. With political parties capable of exaggerating an aspirant’s popularity to convince the public of their success, the integrity of the ballot is at risk. The popularity game could outweigh the voters’ belief in the sanctity of their vote and the values they look for in a candidate.
However, after witnessing the immense influence of social media on the last general elections, the electorate has become more wary of the information they find online and now looks at their sources with a more critical eye.
Even the younger and more digitally savvy voters rely on traditional media such as television and newspapers for election-related news. While social media remains their major information source, it ranks third when it comes to their trust.
Additionally, three-fourths of the respondents cited family members and friends as the main influences on their political choices. This is especially true among young voters (Gen Z and Millenials), which comprise the majority of the 2022 electorate. This emphasizes the capacity of the electorate’s local circles to affect the outcome of the elections.
For more than half of the voters, journalists and news anchors rank second as influencers, amplifying the role of the media in the electoral process.