New polling shows increased lead for Jokowi, 60.2%-28.7% against Prabowo

President Joko Widodo (R) and former general Prabowo Subianto (L) speak to journalists after their meeting at Prabowo’s compound in Jakarta on October 17, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Bay ISMOYO
President Joko Widodo (R) and former general Prabowo Subianto (L) speak to journalists after their meeting at Prabowo’s compound in Jakarta on October 17, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Bay ISMOYO

Previous polling has indicated fairly consistently that Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto has to overcome a hige double-digit lead for incumbent President Joko Widodo in order to win Indonesia’s 2019 presidential election, but instead of closing that gap it looks like Prabowo is now at an even worse footing in his rematch against Jokowi (who already beat him once in 2014).

.The results of the most recent poll from political think tank Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC), taken in mid-September, shows a significant increase in potential voters backing Jokowi compared to their last poll taken in May. Their new data shows 60.2% of respondents choosing Jokowi compared to 57% in May, whereas Prabowo dropped from 32.2% to 28.7%. The 11.1% of undecided.voters also represents a decrease from May.

One obvious reason for Jokowi’s high rating in SMRC’s poll is his correspondingly high approval rating, with 73.4% of respondents saying they were eight satisfied or very satisfied with Jokowi’s work as president. On the flip side, 25.4% of respondents said they were unsatisfied or less than satisfied with his performance.

As the poll was done from September 7-14, it does not take into account the calamitous events of last week’s twin disasters in Sulawesi or the political drama surrounding Prabowo campaigner Ratna Sarumpaet’s fake beating. But, unlike the May poll, it does take into account the announcements of Jokowi’s running mate, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) head Ma’ruf Amin and Prabowo’s VP pick, former Jakarta Vice Governor Sandiaga Uno.

SMRC’s new poll numbers are also generally in line with the most recent poll from survey group Indikator Politik Indonesia, which showed Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin at 57.7% and Prabowo-Sandiaga Uno with 32.3%. That poll was taken from  September 1-6.

If those two polls are evidence of an upward trend for Jokowi and a downward trend for Prabowo, it’s unlikely that last week’s events would have altered them.  SMRC executive director Djayadi Hanan said that their initial findings from surveys taken after Ratna’s hoax was revealed last week show that it had a significant negative effect on undecided voters.

“The optics look bad. That makes it difficult for Prabowo to win votes from those who have not yet made a choice,” Djayadi said at SMRC office’s in Jakarta yesterday as quoted by CNN Indonesia. It could mean that the next poll, post-Ratna drama, puts Prabowo at an even greater disadvantage.

Hidayat Nur Wahid, deputy chairman in PKS (one of Prabowo’s key coalition allies) tried to downplay SMRC’s latest data by noting that former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama also once had high job satisfaction ratings in the polls.

Which is true, Ahok did have quite high job satisfaction ratings, even after the blatantly politicized blasphemy charge against him was made. But, of course, that blasphemy charge was a total game-changer — it not only led to Ahok’s loss in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial race but also landed him in prison. Unless Jokowi does something comparable to give Prabowo an opening to make a similarly game-changing move, the game might already be over for Prabowo.

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