The Jakarta Post
The July 9 presidential election is set for an extremely tight race, as a recent poll indicated on Wednesday that only a 3 percent gap remained between presidential hopefuls Prabowo Subianto and Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.
A joint survey by the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), which is affiliated with noted pollster Saiful Mujani, found that Prabowo had continued to gain in popularity.
According to the poll, which was based on interviews with 2,009 respondents in 33 provinces between June 1 and 10, Jokowi remained ahead with an approval rating of 42 percent, while Prabowo was on 39 percent.
Undecided voters, however, account for 19 percent of the electorate. The margin of error in the poll data is 2.3 percent.
LSI executive director Dodi Ambardi told The Jakarta Post that Prabowo's gradual but steady rise in popularity reflected the drop in the number of undecided voters.
'It seems that some undecided voters have chosen Prabowo and it looks like he has netted support from the middle class,' he said.
Dodi added that Prabowo's support actually surpassed that of Jokowi among middle-class voters with a gap of around 10 percent, while Jokowi was more popular with low-income voters with a 12 percent gap ahead of Prabowo.
He went on to say, however, that the LSI had been primarily responsible for the survey data, as IFES was focusing more on the election itself as opposed to the approval ratings of the presidential candidates.
Presidential electoral surveys arranged by Saiful Mujani's affiliated organizations, such as the LSI, the Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) and Indikator Politik Indonesia, are highly respected for their independence and accuracy.
Kompas daily and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) are also included on the list of known and trusted pollsters.
While the CSIS has yet to reveal its figures, Kompas daily's research and development division announced on Saturday that a 7 percent gap existed between Jokowi and Prabowo, with the former leading on 42.3 percent and Prabowo on 35.3 percent.
The Kompas survey, which was conducted between June 1 and 15, also found that undecided voters accounted for 22.4 percent of the electorate, far greater than the 7 percent gap.
Several analysts have said that the smear campaigns have chipped away support from Jokowi, who had enjoyed a hefty approval gap of more than 10 percent against Prabowo until early this month.
Eva Kusuma Sundari, a spokesperson from Jokowi's campaign team, said on Sunday that her camp remained optimistic about Jokowi's chances in the election.
She said party machinery and the two remaining presidential debates could be used as effective tools in the coming two weeks to win back voter support.
Separately, a recent study found that the two respective candidates had spent a combined total of Rp 38.5 billion (US$3.20 million) on advertising in just one month.
The report from election watchdog SatuDunia, which has been monitoring the media campaigns and spending habits of both camps, said Prabowo had spent Rp 19.1 billion and Jokowi Rp 19.4 billion on television and radio advertisements, as well as ads in print media.
The figures were derived from 2,821 advertisements across 78 media outlets in five major cities ' Jakarta, Makassar, Medan, Surabaya and Banjarmasin ' from May 22 to June 23.