Most Indonesians Approve of Incumbent Ahead of Election

by Julie Ray

Residents see progress on key election issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new Gallup Poll of Indonesia appears to reaffirm the widely held belief that Wednesday's election is incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's to lose. More than 9 in 10 Indonesians (92%) surveyed in mid-April and early May say they approve of the president's job performance, which is 24 percentage points higher than his 68% approval rating in March last year.


Yudhoyono squares off Wednesday against former President Megawati Sukarnoputri and current Vice President Jusuf Kalla in the country's second-ever direct presidential election. While it remains uncertain whether Yudhoyono will garner enough votes to win the first round outright or face a challenger in a September runoff, many analysts believe it is unlikely that he will lose next week.

Election Issues

The Economy

Indonesians' newfound optimism about their economy, which has been a dominant issue in this election, may help the incumbent president's chances for a second term. Gallup Polls show Indonesians are more upbeat about their economy than they have been in the past four years, and for the first time are more likely to say their economy is getting better (37%) than getting worse (24%).


The 37% of Indonesians who say the economy is getting better is still relatively low, but it is nearly three times higher than the record-low 13% measured in 2008. The country's surprisingly resilient growth in a weak global economic climate, easing inflation, and price cuts on fuel earlier this year may help explain the shift in Indonesians' attitudes. At the time of Gallup's survey in March 2008, many residents were already battling rising food and fuel costs before a massive fuel hike in May sent inflation soaring into the double digits.


Indonesian polling
Gallup interviews a government worker on his lunch break outside of Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on Friday, April 17th, 2009. (Gallup/Nicole Naurath)
Gallup's 2009 survey shows Indonesians, tens of millions of whom live in poverty, are more satisfied than they have been in previous years with efforts to deal with the poor. However, it's important to note that a strong majority is still dissatisfied. Roughly a third (32%) of Indonesians surveyed in April and May report they are satisfied with efforts to deal with the poor, but two-thirds (66%) say they are dissatisfied. While the percentage who are satisfied is still relatively low, it is nearly double the number from 2008.



Indonesia's problems with pervasive graft have figured prominently in this election just as they did in the 2004 presidential election. Despite the government's tough line on corruption under Yudhoyono, who was first elected on an anti-corruption platform, strong majorities of Indonesians have perceived corruption as widespread in the country's business and government since he was elected. In the most recent survey, 78% of Indonesians perceive corruption as widespread in business, and 82% perceive it as widespread in government.


The government's anti-corruption efforts have resulted in the imprisonment of scores of officials, most recently including one of Yudhoyono's relatives, which appears to have made an impression on Indonesians. A majority of Indonesians (63%) surveyed in 2009 say they believe their government is doing enough to fight corruption, which represents a 25-point increase from the 38% who said so in 2008.

Bottom Line

Gallup's survey ahead of Indonesia's presidential election shows Yudhoyono enjoys the approval of most Indonesians, which suggests he is unlikely to lose next week. However, if he is re-elected, Indonesians' negative attitudes on key issues -- poverty and corruption -- suggest a great deal remains to be done in his next five years.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,080 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted April-May 2009 in Indonesia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.5 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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