The question of whether Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity could survive anything the colorful chief executive says appears to have been answered, as a survey by independent pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS) published on Tuesday found Duterte sinking to his lowest approval rating since he assumed the office in 2016.
Reuters notes that the survey was taken during the week after Duterte stunned his heavily Catholic electorate by declaring God was “stupid” and a “son of a bitch” at a technology summit. Duterte and the Catholic bishops of the Philippines exchanged increasingly heated words over the course of the week.
Reuters reports the SWS poll found Duterte’s approval rating down 11 points from the first quarter, after slipping only two points when the Philippine economy soured at the beginning of the year.
Although the poll did not include follow-up questions asking why respondents were giving Duterte lower marks, analysts widely assumed his disparaging remarks about Christianity accounted for most of the fall, possibly exacerbating discontent over rising consumer prices and unemployment.
Those analysts expected Duterte would be able to weather the storm, noting that his approval ratings have been fairly bulletproof despite a long history of controversial rhetoric and actions. Duterte was notching some of the highest approval numbers of any Philippine presidency at the end of 2017.
The public is generally happy with his stewardship of the economy and anti-corruption campaigns, and not nearly as disturbed by the violence of his anti-drug campaign as human rights groups would like. The same polling outfit, SWS, found his biggest problems at the dawn of 2018 to be rising inflation and the enduring horror of traffic jams in Manila.
Duterte held a meeting on Monday with Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines President Romulo Valles, at which Duterte “agreed to a moratorium on statements about the Church,” according to a presidential spokesman.
In return, Duterte wants the Church to stay out of politics, accusing the bishops of breaching the barrier between church and state by criticizing his policies.