Thanks to rallies that packed tens of thousands of Leni Robredo supporters that looked like sacks of red onions in drone photos, Sen. Panfilo Lacson saw his own party to defect to the fold of his rival, illustrating how for politicians, huge crowds are an indicator of voter support.
The campaign rallies, including one that caught the eye of U.S. pop singer Ariana Grande, was proof that Robredo's presidential campaign had gained "significant traction", Partido Reporma said, when in surveys, she was falling behind rival Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.
Do the warm bodies in campaign rallies translate to votes? Such displays of force demonstrate a candidate’s winnability that encourage supporters of rival candidates to switch, campaign strategist Gerardo Eusebio told reportr.
“It creates a bandwagon effect, and that bandwagon effect creates certainty, a psychological feeling of sureness. And then it gets you animated: ‘Dito na tayo,’” said Eusebio, who teaches political science at De La Salle University.
“It influences your enthusiasm. Even if they are not saying directly na vote for this guy, magvo-vote ka na rin dahil nakikita mo na parang siguradong-sigurado [yung kandidato]. So it attracts you,” he added.
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Authentic vs. ‘organized’ crowds
While large political gatherings can influence voter preference, it’s important to note that not all rallies are “authentic”. Some are pre-arranged to project strong support for a particular candidate even as the participants will not necessarily vote for him or her, Eusebio said.
“A crowd that is authentic, meaning talagang spontaneous, dumarating yung crowd because of an overflowing of emotions or support to a particular candidate," he said.
“Yung well-organized crowd, nape-prepare yun. Meron ka nang magagaling na advance team or advance political officers. Tapos all they have to do is organize the crowd or mobilize the crowd that will attend the rally the next day,” he added.
A crowd can be organized in various ways. Sometimes, candidates with huge resources can give away food, t-shirts, or items of value to get people to attend rallies, Eusebio said.
Political families seeking to broaden their bases also draw crowds in order to get the favor of national candidates, he added.
“Let's say one particular family is supporting you there, it's just normal na yun ang kanilang dapat gawin kasi gusto nila yung pabor mo, ikaw yung running for public office, malamang pakitang-gilas sila,” Eusebio said.
“They will move heaven and earth to provide the necessary crowds because they want to impress you for you to get them, to maintain them as your client,” he added.
It also depends on the location of the campaign rally. Hometown rallies, for instance, don’t add much to the growth of support for a candidate because it’s expected that the attendees would vote for their kababayan running for national office, according to Eusebio.
“Ang maganda kung yung mga areas na hindi ka talaga malakas and you still get people from that area,” he said.
“Let's say, if Leni would have a campaign rally in Ilocos Norte and she would get a sizeable crowd, maybe as large as what [Bongbong] Marcos gets, then it is an indication of her growing strength,” he added.
The true measure of a strong support for a candidate is when the attendees of a campaign rally are spontaneous, and they participate even without getting anything in return, Eusebio said.
“The crowd bespeaks of your political support. Kung authentic yung crowd, then magandang indication yun sa kandidato dahil ibig sabihin nun, marami kang supporters,” he added.
Should you vote with the crowd?
As campaign rallies can sometimes be organized, Eusebio advised voters to be more cautious and look at the other merits of a candidate. A huge crowd can sway you into voting for the politician they support, but it should not be the basis of your decision on May 9, he added.
“Dapat yung kung ano ang nasa loob mo, in your heart of hearts, yun ang sundan mo. Tignan mo yung record ng tumatakbo, yung linis ng pamumuhay… Huwag na huwag gawing basehan ang mga crowds, dahil ang crowds nabibili,” he added.
In looking at the background of a candidate, also consider what kind of lifestyle he or she has, according to Eusebio.
“Kung masyadong marangya, matakot ka na. Dahil kung masyadong marangya ang buhay, saan nanggaling ang pera na yun?” he added.
In the end, no matter of how large campaign rallies can be, voters should stick to the candidate who they think is the most capable and sincere in serving the people, Eusebio said.
“Matuwa ka kung maraming tao, ibig sabihin maraming umaayon sa iyong paniniwala. Pero huwag lang yun ang maging kaisa-isang batayan mo,” he added.