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Inequality and Democratic Support in Indonesia

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Indonesia is a country of significant inequalities, but we know little about how Indonesians feel about the gap between rich and poor. Comparative research suggests that negative perceptions of inequality can erode public support for democratic institutions. Using survey data, we explore the relationship between inequality and support for democracy in Indonesia. We find Indonesians are divided in their beliefs about income distribution. But this variation is not determined by actual levels of inequality around the country, nor by people's own economic situation; instead, political preferences and partisan biases are what matter most. Beliefs about inequality in Indonesia have become increasingly partisan over the course of the Jokowi presidency: supporters of the political opposition are far more likely to view the income gap as unfair, while supporters of the incumbent president tend to disagree—but they disagree much more when prompted by partisan cues. We also find that Indonesians who believe socio-economic inequality is unjust are more likely to hold negative attitudes toward democracy. We trace both trends back to populist campaigns and the increasingly polarized ideological competition that marked the country's recent elections. The shift toward more partisan politics in contemporary Indonesia has, we argue, consequences for how voters perceive inequality and how they feel about the democratic status quo.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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