Seminar on The Indonesia National Survey Project: Economy, Society and Politics

To enhance the understanding of dynamic economic, social, and political developments in Indonesia, in May 2017, the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute commissioned a nationwide survey in Indonesia, called the Indonesia National Survey Project (INSP).

Thursday 7 September 2017 — To enhance the understanding of dynamic economic, social, and political developments in Indonesia, in May 2017, the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute commissioned a nationwide survey in Indonesia, called the Indonesia National Survey Project (INSP). The survey was carried out through face-to-face interviews in May, in partnership with the LSI, one of the leading research institute in Indonesian, involving 1,600 respondents through stratified random sampling, covering a wide range of topics. The goal is to gain a larger picture of Indonesian public opinion—focusing on ordinary people rather than the elites—on a number of socio-political issues. The overview of the findings is presented in this seminar, with accompanying publication Trends in Southeast Asia 2017 no. 10, released on the same day. Presented by the authors, Dr Diego Fossati, Dr Hui Yew-Foong, and Dr Siwage Dharma Negara, the seminar drew 34 attendees from the government organisations and statutory boards, higher educational institutions, media, private and private organisations/individuals.


From left to right: Dr Diego Fossati, Dr Hui Yew-Foong, and Dr Siwage Dharma Negara presenting the overview results from the survey, published in Trends in Southeast Asia 2017 no. 10 .

For the economy section, Dr Siwage Dharmanegara started by giving an overview of the existing economic trends in Indonesia. Growth has been at around 5%, unlikely to reach the 7% target promised by President Joko Widodo at the beginning of his term. However, his efforts to improve businesses in Indonesia had shown results: ranking in ease of doing business had increased significantly, and Indonesia had been awarded investment grade status from various institutions. Findings from INSP, however, demonstrated two main challenges: (1) inflation, which had increased after the government removed the electricity subsidy early this year; and (2) high unemployment rate, with slower job creation. Poverty rate also remained relatively high at 11%, unlikely to reach its 7% target, while the current Gini ration still remained at around 0.39. Economic contribution continued to be spatially concentrated in Java and Sumatera.


The survey results found that 45.3% of respondents perceived the current economic condition as “average”, but 41.5% thought that the current economic condition was “better” compared to last year, exceeding those who thought that there had been “no change” 34.4%. Interestingly, their responses on their current household economic condition were more optimistic than their assessment of the national economy. Those with higher education and higher income tended to be more optimistic about the economy, although they also reported more concern about finding jobs and inflation. People in Eastern Indonesia tended to be more satisfied with the progress in infrastructure, but not so much in Sumatera and Kalimantan. Respondents placed more priorities on roads (70.5%) than any other infrastructure projects such as schools (15.9%), electricity and power plants (5.82%), ports (2.4%) and railways (0.647%). While e-commerce had been touted as the new engine of growth, only 31% of the respondents stated they had ever used the internet, and among those who had used the internet, only 7.1% had shopped online, 4.9% had used ride services, and 4.6% had used online travel.


Dr Hui Yew-Foong presented the society section. The survey found that that 82.1% respondent agreed that all Muslim women should wear hijab, with no significant difference where gender was concerned. 78.2% of Muslim women claimed to wear the hijab, with more prevalence among those with high education and high income. Respondents also expressed high support (82%) for the implementation of Shariah law, with 67% thinking it would help “safeguard moral values”. At the same time, the respondents felt that the greatest challenges to Islam were not external (e.g. perceived Christianisation); they were more concerned about the the divisive debate among Muslims (42.7%) and Islamic leaders being too involved in politics (20.7%). There were still strong stereotypes of Chinese Indonesians as “having a natural talent for success in making money” (68.1%), and concerns about Chinese Indonesians having too much influence in economy (62%) and politics (41.9%). Those with higher education was also more likely to accept Chinese Indonesians as political leaders.

Dr Diego Fossati presented the politics section. The survey found that the approval for President Joko Widodo was at around 68%, cutting across different (gender, urban-rural, income) social cleavages. Trust to government institutions varied, with army having the highest trust. Support for democracy and multi-level, decentralized governance was also very high, though these were not without conditions. Only about 28% expressed interest in politics, and religious association remained to be the primary form of associational life for many Indonesians.

However, farmer organizations (11.9%) and cooperatives (8.0%) also remained resilient. 68% of respondents expressed preferences for a political party, with substantial support for the PDIP (32.8%), higher than during the 2014 legislative election (19%). Yet only 9.6% describe this preference to be stable and long-term partisan affiliation. Programmatic factors did not seem to be the key drivers for party preference. Instead, leadership, candidates, and familial preference played the strongest role.


Respondents also expressed relatively high support for international economic integration—for open trade, foreign investment, and infrastructure projects—but there were concerns about immigration. The countries most admired were Malaysia and Singapore. Respondents were deeply divided on the impact of ties with China—41% thought that it would have a positive impact, 39% thought the opposite. However, on the South China Sea, not many seemed to be aware of the issue, and only 47% of the respondents answered the questions, with 50.7% thinking that Indonesia should mediate.

There were plenty of questions asked by the audience, ranging from whether the survey proved a conservative turn in Islam, why the stereotypes of Chinese Indonesians continued to prevail, methodology (such as sampling frame, education, and income category), satisfaction with infrastructure project, the use of e-commerce, and so on. This seminar and its related Trends is the first step in analysing the rich data sets from the INSP survey. More rigorous analysis related to the INSP will be published in upcoming weeks, followed by an edited volume in 2019.

Related publications:

1. Trends in Southeast Asia 2017 no. 10
2. ISEAS Perspective

3. Media articles and Op-Eds