NOVEMBER 22, 2006 (STAR) By Helen Flores - Improvements in the economy did little to boost President Arroyo’s approval ratings, a survey said yesterday.

Independent pollster Pulse Asia said its November survey of 1,200 people found 48 percent of respondents critical of Mrs. Arroyo’s performance while 25 percent approved and 26 percent were undecided — roughly the same as the results of its July survey.

The November survey also showed that Vice President Noli de Castro and Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. are the most appreciated national government officials with approval ratings of 54 and 60 percent, respectively, while Mrs. Arroyo registered the highest disapproval rating.

Outgoing Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, for his part, registered a 10-percentage point gain in his overall trust rating between July and November 2006.

"With respect to presidential trust ratings, one out of every two Filipinos – or 50 percent – distrust Mrs. Arroyo, while 21 percent express trust in her and 28 percent are unable to say whether they trust or distrust her," Pulse Asia said.

"Disapproval and distrust remain the predominant public sentiment as regards (Mrs.) Arroyo," it added.

Pulse Asia said 48 percent of Filipinos continue to be critical of presidential performance in the past three months with majority of those in the rest of Luzon (51 percent), in the poorest Class E (51 percent), and in Metro Manila (56 percent) giving the President her highest disapproval ratings.

Based on economic standing, the distrust rating was 47 percent for affluent to middle class families (Class ABC), and 49 percent for Class D.

Almost the same percentage of Filipinos expressed either approval (25 percent) or indecision (26 percent) regarding presidential performance, the pollster added.

Forty percent of Visayans are still the most appreciative of Mrs. Arroyo’s work, while 19 percent in Metro Manila approve of her performance.

Pulse Asia said the level of public indecision regarding presidential performance is generally constant across geographic areas and socio-economic classes (22 to 28 percent).

Despite the administration’s oft-cited improvements in the economy and fiscal reforms in the two quarters preceding the survey, "(Mrs.) Arroyo’s overall performance ratings are not significantly different from those recorded in July 2006," Pulse Asia said.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Pulse Asia said the President’s trust and distrust ratings in the different geographic areas and socio-economic classes are consistent with the respective overall figures with the exception of the 37 percent disapproval rating registered in the Visayas.

"Indecision ratings across geographic areas and socio-economic classes also do not vary markedly from the overall figure. There is hardly any change — positive or negative — in the President’s overall trust ratings between July and November 2006," it added.

However, Mrs. Arroyo’s trust rating among Class E respondents declined by 10 percentage points while her distrust rating rose by 11 percentage points, Pulse Asia said.

The survey was conducted from Oct. 21 to Nov. 8 with 1,200 representative adults aged 18 years old and above.

Pulse Asia noted that during the survey period, the Supreme Court junked the people’s initiative petition for Charter change filed by Sigaw ng Bayan, pro-Charter change lawmakers were calling for Congress to be convened into a constituent assembly, Cabinet members bickered over the people’s initiative issue and Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz resigned.

It was also during this period that the Court of Appeals allowed nurses who passed the 2006 licensure exam to finally take their oath and the Sandiganbayan cleared Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay of graft charges.

The news that became prominent during the survey period included the search for the next Supreme Court chief justice, the mid-term elections in the United States, the coming May 2007 Philippine elections, the improvement in the stock market, the continued appreciation of the local currency, and the upgrading of the country’s credit rating.

Filipinos are also least critical of Villar’s performance (12 percent), according to Pulse Asia.

Forty percent of Filipinos are undecided on the work done by Panganiban, while other top national government officials had nearly the same indecision ratings (25 to 33 percent).

Pulse Asia said the current performance ratings of these government officials do not differ markedly from the July 2006 figures. The only exception is the nine-percentage point increase in the overall approval rating of Panganiban.

He enjoyed higher approval and trust ratings in November compared to the previous quarter.

Pulse Asia said the decision to junk the people’s initiative petition has improved the performance and trust ratings of both the Supreme Court and its chief justice between July and November 2006. The SC’s approval rating went up from 36 percent to 46 percent.

Forty to 53 percent of Filipinos disapproved of the Arroyo administration’s performance on six national issues — criminality, political killings, workers’ pay, poverty, graft and corruption, and inflation.

"Filipinos are most critical of the national administration’s efforts to control inflation, which is an issue considered as among the three most urgent by 54 percent of Filipinos," Pulse Asia said.

On the issues of national peace and environmental degradation, indecision is the most predominant sentiment with 41 percent of Filipinos unable to say whether they approve or disapprove of the Arroyo administration’s management of these matters.

Filipinos are divided between indecision and outright disapproval on the issues of national economic recovery and public trust in government, while on investment promotion and provision of electric power, public opinion is split with nearly the same percentages expressing approval, indecision, or disapproval, the Pulse Asia said.

The stock market has surged to its highest level in nine years and the peso climbed to a four-year-high against the US dollar as fiscal measures pushed by Mrs. Arroyo boosted investor confidence, increased the government’s revenue and narrowed the budget deficit.

Another independent pollster, the Social Weather Stations, said its September survey on poverty and hunger found 16.9 percent of Filipino families saying they had experienced hunger at least once in the past three months — little changed from last year.

It said it was a challenge for economists to determine why people continue to go hungry despite the economic gains. — With AP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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