June 21, 2024 – In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), where women constitute a significant majority of likely voters, issues specifically related to women’s rights surprisingly take a back seat to more immediate economic concerns. This trend highlights the pressing reality that when faced with economic deprivation, basic needs and livelihoods overshadow gender equality ideals.


A recent survey by IAG Research finds that women’s issues are among the least cited as the single most important concern of the autonomous region’s voters, ranging from just 0.3% to 1% of respondents. This is particularly striking given that the majority of likely voters in BARMM are women (54.2%). The findings suggest that in a region where poverty is pervasive, economic survival takes precedence over advancing gender equality.


While poverty incidence in BARMM has decreased from 55.9% in 2018 to 39.4% in 2021, it is still the highest nationwide at 34.8% in the first half of 2023, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).


Economic Hardships Predominate


The data paints a stark picture of economic hardship among likely voters in BARMM. An overwhelming 83.4% of respondents report living below the government's official poverty threshold, with monthly household incomes of less than PhP 9,100 (approximately US$155). Maguindanao del Sur has the largest concentration of poor likely voters at 93.5%.


A smaller segment, 12.3% of likely voters, falls into the low-income category, earning between PhP 9,100 and PhP 18,200 per month. These voters are concentrated in Maguindanao del Norte, Cotabato City, Lanao del Sur and Basilan. The middle class, defined as having a monthly income of PhP 18,201 to PhP 36,400, is virtually non-existent, comprising just 3.4% of the electorate. Wealthier voters are even rarer, with only 0.3% earning more than PhP 182,000 monthly in Cotabato City.


Primary Concerns: Livelihoods and Education


When asked about their most pressing issues, respondents overwhelmingly singled out economic and security concerns. Livelihood projects emerged as the top priority, cited by 62% of voters across BARMM. This issue is especially significant in vote-rich Lanao del Sur (77.3%) and in Tawi-Tawi (74.2%).


Education and scholarships are also high on the list, mentioned by 46.3% of respondents, reflecting a widespread desire for better educational opportunities. Good jobs and stable employment follow closely, with 41.5% identifying this as a key concern. In places like the Special Geographic Area and Maguindanao del Sur, peace and order—encompassing crime and personal safety—are crucial issues for 65.9% and 62.5% of respondents, respectively, due to recent violent incidents.


Interestingly, the focus on fighting violent extremism and terrorism, once a major concern in the region, has diminished. Across BARMM, only 5.7% of respondents prioritize this issue, though it remains a significant concern for 9.9% of voters in Lanao del Sur, likely a lingering effect of the 2017 Siege of Marawi.


Conducted from April 29 to May 14, 2024, the survey included 3,072 respondents across BARMM, with a sample size of 384 respondents each from Cotabato City, Special Geographic Area, and the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. This sample size provides a 99% confidence level with a 1.77% confidence interval. Provincial margins are at a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error.


Likely voters in the survey are defined as registered voters expressing intention to participate in the upcoming regional parliamentary elections. BARMM had 2.7 million registered voters for the May 2022 elections, with 2.09 million actually voting, according to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).


For press information about the survey, contact IAG Research at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


About IAG Research

IAG Research, affiliated with the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), is a leading authority on human security and governance issues in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Leveraging IAG’s in-depth understanding of the BARMM’s cultural context, governance dynamics, and historical conflicts, IAG Research produces pioneering research that sheds light on critical issues facing the region. Its studies have influenced policy and program development throughout the Philippines, impacting areas such as Indigenous Peoples’ rights, madrasah education, and the prevention of violent extremism. This commitment to impactful research establishes IAG Research as a vital contributor to positive change within the BARMM.

IAG Research is located at Unit 801 8F The Linden Suites, No. 37 San Miguel Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City, Philippines.