i Achieving a new benchmark for public opinion research and political consultancy
Thank you very much for the Lifetime Achievement Award for public opinion research and political consultancy. I am glad to receive this award with one hope in mind.
When Indonesia applied the direct ballot system for its citizens, the political system suddenly changed. Nowadays, it is not only Pizza Hut that needs to advertise. It is not only Coca Cola that needs a marketing strategy. Now, presidential candidates also need to advertise. Gubernatorial candidates need a marketing strategy. Every candidate who wants to be chosen by the public citizenry needs to be “packaged”.
Television programs have also changed. We watch advertising “spots” that endorse leadership by certain political candidates interspersed with commercial messages for consumer products. Like it or not, this is the new face of democracy in the world, in Indonesia, America, and Europe.
The positive side of this is that democracy has become more friendly and beneficial to the common people. When an authoritative political system intimidates the electorate, democracy coerces the public. An authoritative system finds an expedient means to force the public to obey its will. Conversely, the democratic system seeks data and conducts research to ascertain the public’s true needs from its leaders in making a choice.
In democracy, practical politics is coupled with empirical fact-finding science. Survey organizations as well as political consultancies were conceived to respond to this need. They have become the fifth pillar of democracy, demonstrating what the electorate desires through scientific methods of fact-finding.
As long as the direct democracy system exists (“one person, one vote”), survey agencies and political consultancy groups will exist and endure. One could say then that survey organizations and political consultancies have formed a package that has attached itself to the system of direct representation in democracies.
Thank God that I was given the opportunity to be present since the democratic direct ballot system was first applied in Indonesia in the presidential election of 2004 and the Jakarta gubernatorial election of 2005.
However, I would also like to make a disclaimer. During the past 14 years that my team and I have constituted LSI (Lingkaran Survei Indonesia), thousands of surveys have been conducted. Of course, we have not been able to attain a 100% track record in political forecasting; some of our survey projections have missed the mark.
Since creating a political consultancy group 14 years ago, we have represented hundreds of clients. Obviously, we were not able to guarantee victory for 100% of our clients; some of these political candidates were defeated in their bid for election. However, looking at our total success as a percentage, our error rate (in surveys) and setbacks (in political consultancy) were nevertheless below 10%.
The same could be claimed regarding the performance of Christian Ronaldo and Messi in football. Ronaldo in fact failed to score a goal several times even from the penalty line. Likewise, Messi was unable to prevent two decisive defeats for Barcelona, including a 0-7 rout, in matches against their rival, Bayern Munchen. However, on the whole, during 9 years playing football, Ronaldo and Messi were able to share titles for the Ballon d’Or Best Player Award.
The date was 9 March 2005, 12 years ago, at a moment that may become memorable in the world of Indonesian political consultancy. Because that was the first day that a survey organization was contracted by a political party to select all the candidates for positions of governor, mayor, and regent. This event inaugurated a new era for local elections when regional government officials were elected by direct ballot for the first time in Indonesian history.
In 2005, I convinced Golkar (the Golongan Karya Party) for the purpose of achieving dominance in local elections to employ fact-finding methods in political surveys. Thus, Golkar decided to benefit by using a survey agency and political consultancy group.
I represented LSI (Lingkaran Survei Indonesia) in arranging a contract with Andi Matalata, who at that time was the lead executive for Golkar’s election victory team. Why was LSI chosen? Because at that time, LSI was the solitary political consultancy organization that was able to carry out public opinion surveys. Now, 13 years later, many political consultancy outfits have sprung up.
I had already conveyed my vision and mission to my colleagues at LSI from the start. We were the first political consultancy in Indonesia. It was our responsibility to establish a benchmark, a firm foundation for high achievement. This was necessary so that the next generation upholds the benchmark and high standards that we have set. We needed to start with a dream.
Thus, a program was organized. The first related to the quick count. It was essential to determine how it was possible to coordinate a quick count whose disparity against the actual KPUD count two weeks later was as small as possible. Thank God in the quick count for the Sumbawa election in 2010, a record was achieved when the gap between the two counts was actually 0.00%! This record, of course, can never be broken and can only be equaled.
The second issue involved the predictive accuracy of the survey. We had to prove this. The ability to predict what has not yet occurred is not based solely on natural science but also on social science. We couldn’t make idle promises… We had to publicize our projections in the newspapers before election day so that its accuracy could be recorded and witnessed by many people.
Thank God that 13 times our predictions for the victor in 13 regional elections were publicized. And they were proven to be 100% accurate.
The third issue concerns media publications. In the past, various types of political research received scant attention from the media. We had to find a way to make political research more appealing and receptive to media attention.
There was a period when publications from LSI became the headline on page one of national newspapers 10 times in succession. Not just Page 1, but its headline. Material disseminated by LSI press conferences became page one headlines in Kompas, Republika, Koran Tempo, Jakarta Post, and others.
The fourth issue considers the importance of election victory for one’s client candidates. We wanted to see that not only Ronaldo and Messi would execute a hat-trick by scoring 3 goals in one match.
Indeed, LSI must be listed in the record books for pulling off a hat-trick in winning an election. And the mother of all elections is the presidential election. In fact, LSI is recorded for successful promotion of 3 consecutive presidents: twice assisting Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and one time helping Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in their respective bids for the office of President of Indonesia.
Besides winning 3 presidential elections, LSI is listed in 2017 as having already achieved victory for 30 provincial governors, as well as 80 mayors and regents in their successful bids for political office.
The fifth issue concerns social media. The involvement of social media has altered the playing field in political campaigns. Hillary Clinton is recorded as the first U.S. presidential candidate who announced her campaign progress on Twitter.
LSI has achieved its own record regarding the use of social media in promoting political campaigns. To this day, my Tweet via my account (“DennyJA_World “) regarding Jokowi’s presidential campaign is still recalled for garnering the most retweets in Indonesia. The number of retweets exceeded one million.
I received global recognition in an award from Twitter, Inc. for the Golden Tweet of the World #2 in 2014. Only one other Tweet that year outscored mine in retweets, namely Ellen DeGeneres’s epic Tweet, featuring a celebrity-filled group “selfie” at the 2014 Oscars ceremony.
A year later, Time Magazine selected me as one of the 30 “Most Influential People on the Internet” alongside President Obama (USA), President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina), Prime Minister Narendra Modi (India), and celebrities Justin Bieber and Shakira.
All this has made me proud and happy even if I had to retire eventually from this profession. I have not only founded a political consultancy business; I have also set 5 significant benchmarks and milestones.
Due to these achievements, I have received this award from Leprid (Lembaga Prestasi Indonesia Dunia): a Lifetime Achievement Award for public surveys and political consultancy. As the director of Leprid explained, the Lifetime Achievement Award is a very prestigious accolade because it recognizes significant long-term accomplishment and dedication within my profession.
Once again, I would like to express my appreciation to Leprid, which bestowed this award. I am accepting this award with one hope in mind: It is my great desire that these achievements and records will be broken and enriched by future generations of survey agencies and political consultancy groups.
Acceptance Speech: Denny JA; Lifetime Achievement Award (7 March 2017)