Two recent reputable public opinion polls in Indonesia provide further confirmation of the rise of Joko Widodo (known as Jokowi) as the clear front runner for next year's presidential elections.

From his original position as mayor of Solo — a city of around 550,000 people — Jokowi has captured a mood of public disillusionment to first win election as Jakarta governor in September 2012 and then surge past the previous presidential front runner Prabowo Subianto in popularity. I cover Jokowi's emergence, his impact on Indonesian politics, and examine whether a new president could tackle some of the entrenched defects of Indonesian democracy in a new paper in the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies.

The new surveys — conducted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (in November) and Indikator/SMRC/TII (in October) respectively — show Jokowi outpolling Prabowo by more than two to one. 

Jokowi vs Prabowo, various public opinion surveys (%)

NB: The Indikator/SMRC/TII poll had a large 'don't know' result; when respondents were given a field of 27 names the results for Jokowi and Prabowo were 35.9% and 11.4% respectively.

Both polls also try to get at the interesting question of how the PDI-P will fare in the April 2014 legislative election depending on whether or not it nominates Jokowi as its presidential candidate for the July presidential elections.

Former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, as party chairperson, has the sole authority to select PDI-P's presidential candidate, and has recently said she will wait until after the legislative elections  to make her pick. By then it will be clear whether PDI-P has reached the threshold of 20% of parliamentary seats or 25% of valid votes cast to be able to nominate a presidential candidate in its own right, or whether it would need to form a coalition.

CSIS approached this question by asking respondents their preferred party, and additionally asking which party they would choose if PDI-P nominated Jokowi and five other parties also nominated specific candidates. PDI-P performed better in the second scenario, with its vote rising from 17.6% to 29.9%.

The Indikator/SMRC/TII poll, by contrast, split its 1200 respondents into three groups, and asked each a different question on the legislative election. A third were asked which party they would choose if the election was held today, another third which party they would choose if PDI-P nominated Jokowi, the final third which party if PDI-P did not nominate him in the subsequent presidential election. Again, PDI-P performed considerably better with Jokowi as its candidate.

The Jokowi effect: the Indikator/SMRC/TII poll (%)

NB: Only top four parties only shown; full results here.

Could such results sway PDI-P to nominate Jokowi ahead of the legislative elections, Megawati's statement notwithstanding? Perhaps. But the question these polls don't answer conclusively is whether PDI-P could benefit from a 'Jokowi effect' in the legislative elections even while leaving open the question of whether they will nominate him for president. Voters might assume PDI-P will nominate him, given his visibility and popularity in the polls, and vote for PDI-P anyway.