Some optimism

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Monday, November 1, 2010


FILIPINOS getting tired of bad news and negativism finally saw something unexpected in the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) report on the number of optimists in the country.

Results of a social weather survey on “very high” net personal optimism (at +32) and net economic optimism (at +29) became something to chew on over the long weekend that ended on All Souls’ Day. The time for honoring the dead can be an occasion for willing life and for optimism.

The report, released by the SWS last Oct. 28 to BusinessWorld, said the 2010 third quarter survey conducted last Sept. 24 to 27 found 38 percent of adults expecting their personal quality of life to improve in the next 12 months. They were dubbed as the “optimists.”

Only six percent were the “pessimists” or those who expected it to get worse. The result is a “very high” net personal optimism (computed at the difference of optimists over pessimists) score of +32, close to the record-high +36 in the previous quarter. The full report is available at http://www.sws.org.ph/.

I hope it really is as easy as deducting the number of those who do not think life will improve from the number of those who think it will, but optimism that things will get better must be based on something more than perception, sentiment or gut-feel.

But then the SWS is after statistics and indicators rather than the reasons behind a survey respondent’s answer. One only has to view the report to see all the figures and the + and – signs. The answer to the question “why” is left to the individual.

A total of 1,200 adults were asked to respond to the survey in face-to-face interviews. Respondents came from Metro Manila, the balance of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, with sampling error margin of + or – 3 percent.

They were asked about trends in personal quality of life and optimism with the Philippine economy.

The SWS report said net personal optimism has been over net +20 in the past five quarters beginning September 2009. The latest personal pessimism score of six percent was just one point above the record-low five percent in June 2010. Regarding the Philippine economy as a whole next year, the report added, 39 percent were optimistic it would get better and only nine percent were pessimistic, for a “very high” net economic optimism score of +29, after the record-high net +39 in June 2010.

Prior to June 2010, net economic optimism was double-digit negatives in 30 out of 46 surveys since September 1998, it said.

On the change in personal quality of life compared to 12 months ago, 27 percent said their lives had worsened and 25 percent said it got better.

The SWS indicators of future economic trends are the people’s perceived directions of forthcoming change in (a) their personal quality of life, and (b) the economy as a whole.

It’s about perception and an offhand estimation of how it will be in the next year. It could also be childish optimism from those who are already close to rock bottom. Wishful thinking.

Without an understanding of the changes spurring the optimism, the general sentiment reported may be used as a way of swaying perception or of conditioning minds.

(ninicab@sunstar.com.ph)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 02, 2010.

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