On Thursday, Social Weather Survey (SWS), a polling firm, released public opinion data on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s broad support in the country. Per the survey, which was conducted between September 24 and 27, 2016, 76 percent of Filipinos are “satisfied” with Duterte’s performance as president, while 11 percent as “dissatisfied,” and another 13 percent remain undecided. That data show that Duterte maintains a net satisfaction rate of 64 percent, which suggests considerable continuing support.
Public opinion data released by Pulse Asia, another a survey firm, in July, weeks after Duterte’s June 30 inauguration, showed that 91 percent of Filipinos approved of Duterte. September’s data, while not demonstrating the same degree of overwhelming support for Duterte, still underlines that a majority of Filipinos are satisfied with the president. Moreover, historical data released by Social Weather Survey going back to Corazon Aquino’s administration beginning in 1986, shows that nearly all Filipino presidents have started their administrations with a net satisfaction rating in the 50 to 70 point range. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration is a notable exception to this trend.
Public support for Duterte has drawn concern outside the country, particularly given the Philippine president’s extreme comments on his ongoing drug war, which has resulted in the deaths of over 3,000, and offensive remarks against foreign leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama. Moreover, Duterte has tolerated a proliferation of extra-judicial killings across the country as president, exporting what had been a trademark of his time as the mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines to the national stage.
SWS’ data show that support for Duterte is geographically widespread in the Philippines and is not determined by urban-rural divides. In Mindanao, support for Duterte is unsurprisingly overwhelmingly high, with a net approval of 85 percent (only 4 percent in Mindanao are “dissatisfied” with Duterte). While men and women rate their satisfaction with Duterte at similar levels (79 and 72 percent respectively), a greater proportion of women (15 percent) report dissatisfaction with the president.
Higher dissatisfaction among women may be linked to Duterte’s vendetta against Senator Leila de Lima, who urged the government to scrutinize the president’s drug policy. In late-September, women senators united against plans by some lawmakers to show an alleged sex tape featuring De Lima as part of an investigation. “This is clearly a case of misogyny,” Risa Hontiveros, a Liberal Party lawmaker, said.
Duterte’s public support appears to be persisting for now, but isn’t necessarily an aberration in a historic context. However, for human rights groups concerned about the rising tide of extra-judicial killings and observers in the United States concerned about the health of the U.S.-Philippines alliance, the Philippine president’s continuing public support will be cause for concern.