Hedman, Eva-Lotta E.
The politics of ‘public opinion’ in the Philippines.
Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 29
In May 2010, national elections in the Philippines saw front-runner presidential candidate Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III win a landslide victory which set the stage for an orderly transition of power from the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This article argues that Aquino’s victory, rather than signalling a clear departure from the old ways of doing politics or the mere reproduction of established patterns of oligarchical politics, points towards a more gradual and limited change in the mobilisation of voters in the Philippines. This change, it is further argued, reflects in part the rise of “public opinion” as a social fact in Philippine politics and society in the period since the resurrection of formal democratic institutions and regular elections. The article identifies the broad parameters of the rise in polls and surveys in the Philippines, and, drawing on the critical insights of Pierre Bourdieu, examines the nature and significance of “public opinion” itself. However, the argument advanced here is a cautionary one, indicating that, while the emergence of public opinion as a social fact alters political calculations and dynamics associated with voter mobilisation, the politics of public opinion may only have limited transformative potential for democracy in the Philippines.
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