Few Indonesians buy conspiracy theories about Jokowi being pro-communist, anti-Islam: survey

President candidates incumbent President Joko Widodo (2nd R) and Prabowo (2nd L) and vice president candidates Maruf Amin (R) and Sandiaga Uno (L) sing Indonesia’s national anthem before the draw for 2019 presidential election at election commission office in Jakarta, on September 21, 2018. (Photo by BAY ISMOYO / AFP)
President candidates incumbent President Joko Widodo (2nd R) and Prabowo (2nd L) and vice president candidates Maruf Amin (R) and Sandiaga Uno (L) sing Indonesia’s national anthem before the draw for 2019 presidential election at election commission office in Jakarta, on September 21, 2018. (Photo by BAY ISMOYO / AFP)

Conspiracy theories and hoax stories have dogged Indonesian President Joko Widodo since his first presidential campaign in 2014, including allegations that the former Jakarta governor is secretly a member of the long-gone Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) working for the Chinese government and determined to undermine Islam. While those conspiracies live on, according to the results of a new survey, few Indonesians are buying them.

The latest survey results from the Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC), like the others they and most major polling groups have released over the last few months, show Jokowi and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin with a huge lead over Prabowo and his running mate Sandiaga Uno, 56.7% for the incumbent compared to 31.8% for the challenger.

That poll — conducted from Feb. 24 to Mar 5 with 2,479 respondents — also included some questions about the anti-Jokowi conspiracies that shed insight into why they’ve seemingly done little to hurt his poll numbers.

“Negative opinions about Jokowi’s background and actions that often appear in the mass media, especially on social media, have so far only been believed by relatively few citizens,” SMRC Director Djayadi Hanan wrote in a press release received today by Kompas.

According to the release, when asked, “Do you agree or disagree with the opinion that President Jokowi is a member of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) or at least related to the PKI?” 73% percent of respondents said they did not agree while only 6% agreed and 22% said they did not know or could not answer.

Asked the same about whether the President was acting as an agent of the the People’s Republic of China, 69% of respondents said they did not agree while 10% agreed.

Asked whether they thought that Jokowi was anti-Islam, 76% of respondents did not agree while only 6% agreed.

“As for the percentage of people who believe in negative opinions that are not based on facts (i.e. fake news), the trend is relatively stable and averages around 6%,” Djayadi wrote in the press release.

President Joko Widodo’s administration and the police have been cracking down on people spreading fake news and hoaxes online using the controversial Law on Electronic Transactions and Information (UU ITE) and many of the prosecutions under the law have targeted those spreading conspiracy theories about the president, such as the two people arrested in early January for spreading a hoax about millions of tampered ballots coming from China aimed at helping Jokowi win the election.

Some have accused Jokowi and his government of going too far in its attempts to curb both fake news and radicalism, warning of creeping authoritarianism and the silencing of opposition under the president’s rule.


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