2015 Lowy Institute polling: Indonesia and the death penalty

New polling following the executions in Indonesia of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran last week suggests Australians have a strong preference for a restrained diplomatic response from the Australian Government.

  • Alex Oliver

New polling following the executions in Indonesia of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran last week suggests Australians have a strong preference for a restrained diplomatic response from the Australian Government.

  • Alex Oliver

Key Findings

  • Following the recall of the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, the predominant view is that normal diplomatic relations with Indonesia should be suspended for only a few months.
  • The poll results suggest that the executions will have little impact on Australians’ travel plans, buying habits or business dealings with Indonesia.
  • A slight majority say the Australian Government should play an active role in pushing for the abolition of the death penalty internationally (51%, compared with 45% saying it should not).

Overview

New polling commissioned by the Lowy Institute following the executions in Indonesia of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran last week suggests that Australians have a strong preference for a restrained diplomatic response from the Australian Government.

‘Private diplomatic protests’ are the course of action most Australian adults would prefer their Government to take, with 59% agreeing with this approach when presented with five potential Government responses following the execution of an Australian citizen overseas.

Only a minority (42%) say that Australia ‘should recall Australia’s ambassador’, despite the Government announcing the recall of Australia’s Ambassador to Jakarta last week and his subsequent return to Australia on 4 May. There is scant support for suspending Australian aid projects (28% agreeing) or suspending military and law enforcement cooperation (27%). The least supported action is for applying trade sanctions (24% agreeing).  Attitudes have shifted very little since Lowy Institute polling on this question earlier in the year, with the exception of the preference for private diplomatic protests (down from 73% support before the executions) and for recalling Australia’s ambassador (up from 33% before the executions). 

For how long should normal diplomatic relations be suspended?

Following the recall of the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, the predominant view is that normal diplomatic relations with Indonesia should be suspended for only a few months. When presented with a range of possible time periods and asked ‘for how long should Australia suspend normal diplomatic relations with Indonesia’, only a third of Australians (34%) advocate a period longer than four months. The majority (51%) say that normal diplomatic relations should be suspended for only one to four months.

Impact on travel and business

Further poll results suggest that the executions will have little impact on Australians’ travel plans, buying habits or business dealings with Indonesia. When asked whether they would be more or less likely to ‘travel to Bali or anywhere else in Indonesia’ or ‘buy Indonesian products’, significant majorities of the population (63% and 71% respectively) say ‘it will make no difference’. Nor do the majority of Australians think that Australian companies should be less willing to do business with Indonesia following these executions: 76% say ‘it should make no difference’.

Opposition to the death penalty

Lowy Institute polling both before and after the executions indicates a clear majority of Australians oppose the death penalty for drug trafficking. When asked on the weekend after the executions whether in general the ‘death penalty should or should not be used as a penalty for drug trafficking’, 71% said it should not, with only 25% saying it should. These results are almost identical to those of our earlier poll conducted in mid-February 2015, when 69% said the death penalty should not be used for drug trafficking, while 26% said it should. There was also very strong opposition to the executions of Chan and Sukumaran in our mid-February polling: 62% of Australians said the executions should not proceed, and only 31% said they should.

Despite the strong opposition to the death penalty for drug trafficking, attitudes to the idea that the Australian Government should lead an international drive to abolish the death penalty worldwide are less clear cut. A slight majority say the Australian Government should play an active role in pushing for the abolition of the death penalty internationally (51%, compared with 45% saying it should not). Attitudes on this question are largely unchanged since February.

Poll questions and results

 

Government responses to the executions of Australians overseas

Table 1. Two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were executed this week in Indonesia following convictions for drug trafficking. The following is a list of possible ways for the Australian Government to respond when an Australian citizen is executed in another country as a result of a death penalty.  Do you personally agree or disagree that the Australian Government should now…?

[LI Poll 2015; Newspoll 1-3 May 2015; Newspoll question as above; LI Poll 2015: “The following is a list of possible ways for the Australian government to respond if an Australian citizen is executed in another country as a result of a death penalty.  Do you personally agree or disagree that the Australian government should …?”]

 

 

 

Make private diplomatic protests

Recall Australia’s ambassador

Suspend Australian aid projects

Suspend military and law enforcement cooperation

Apply trade sanctions

 

LI Poll 2015

1-3 May 2015

LI Poll 2015

1-3 May 2015

LI Poll 2015

1-3 May 2015

LI Poll 2015

1-3 May 2015

LI Poll 2015

1-3 May 2015

Agree

73%

59%

33%

42%

28%

28%

29%

27%

37%

24%

Disagree

24%

35%

60%

52%

68%

69%

65%

69%

57%

70%

Don’t know/no view

3%

5%

6%

7%

4%

4%

6%

5%

7%

7%

 

Diplomatic relations with Indonesia

Table 2. Following these executions, the Australian Government has said it will recall Australia’s Ambassador to Indonesia. In your personal view, for how long should Australia suspend normal diplomatic relations with Indonesia?

            

Newspoll

1-3 May 2015

For about one to four months only

51%

For about five to eight months

10%

For about nine to twelve months

12%

For more than a year

12%

None of these/other/don’t know/no view

14%

 

Public response to executions

Table 3. Following the executions in Indonesia this week of the two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are you personally now more likely to do each of the following, less likely or will it make no difference?

 

Travel to Bali or anywhere else in Indonesia

Buy Indonesian products

 

Newspoll

1-3 May 2015

Newspoll

1-3 May 2015

Less likely

34%

25%

More likely

2%

1%

It will make no difference

63%

71%

Don’t know/no view

2%

2%

 

Business response to executions

Table 4. And following these executions in Indonesia do you personally think that Australian companies should be…?

            

Newspoll 1-3 May 2015

Less willing to do business in Indonesia

20%

More willing to do business in Indonesia

2%

It should make no difference

76%

None/Don’t know

3%

 

The death penalty for drug trafficking

Table 5: Around the world, some countries do have a death penalty for drug trafficking, while other countries do not. In general, do you think the death penalty should or should not be used as a penalty for drug trafficking?

 

Newspoll 13-15 Feb 2015

Newspoll

1-3 May 2015

Should not be used as a penalty for drug trafficking

69%

71%

Should be used as a penalty for drug trafficking

26%

25%

Don’t know

6%

4%

 

Opposition to the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

Table 6: In Indonesia, there is a death penalty for drug trafficking. Two Australian citizens, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are currently facing execution in Indonesia following convictions for drug trafficking. Do you personally think that the executions of these two Australian citizens should or should not proceed?

 

Newspoll 13-15 Feb 2015

Should not proceed

62%

Should proceed

31%

Don’t know

8%

 

Abolition of the death penalty internationally

Table 7:  While many countries, including Australia, have abolished the death penalty, many others still apply the death penalty for certain offences. Do you personally think the Australian Government should or should not play an active role in pushing for the abolition of the death penalty internationally?

            

LI Poll

2015

Newspoll

1-3 May 2015

Should play an active role

51%

51%

Should not play an active role

47%

45%

Don’t know/no view

3%

3%

Notes

These results are drawn from The Lowy Institute Poll 2015, a nationally representative telephone  survey of 1,200 Australian adults conducted between 20 February and 8 March 2015, with supplementary polling conducted by Newspoll on behalf of the Lowy Institute on 13-15 February (1,211 adults) and 1-3 May 2015 (1,213 adults). The error margin on each poll is approximately +/- 2.8%.

Lowy Institute Poll (LI Poll 2015):

  • 20 Feb – 8 Mar 2015 (sample: 1,200)

Lowy Institute/Newspoll (Newspoll):

  • 13-15 Feb 2015 (sample: 1,211)
  • 1-3 May 2015 (sample: 1,213)