Puzzling Hungarian opinion poll results

There are a surprising number of pollsters in Hungary given the country’s size: Gallup, Medián, Századvég, Forsense, Tárki, Szonda Ipsos, just to mention a few. Each of them asks a representative sample of voters monthly: "How would you vote if the elections were held next Sunday?" For about a year, the MSZP has been doing very badly, while the Fidesz is in the lead. Way ahead! At one point, among all eligible voters, the Fidesz was leading by 17 percent according to some of the polls. Lately, the MSZP is gaining on the Fidesz but very slowly.

In the most recent poll conducted jointly by Századvég and Forsense, once again sampling eligible voters, 26 percent said they would vote for the Fidesz and only 17 percent for the MSZP. Oh, but this is only 43 percent! What about the rest? Well, they either wouldn’t cast a ballot, they are undecided, or (and this is quite frequent) they refuse to tell. There is such a suspicion in the population concerning these pollsters that they are reluctant to disclose their political sympathies. From what I gather, the left-liberal voters are especially leery about the pollsters; they are suspicious of the "evil" intentions of the right toward people who don’t support them.

Then comes the first surprising result. When these eligible voters were asked whether they would want this government to continue in office or not, the result was not in line with party preferences. Forty-three percent seemed to be satisfied enough to keep the current government in office, and only 42% would want to have early elections. And then for the most startling result. When the question was posed whether they would prefer a socialist government or a Fidesz government (with or without Viktor Orbán), the majority, 30%, voted for a socialist government and only 24% for a Fidesz government.

Among a subset of the sample–those who claim that they would definitely vote, 54% say they would vote for the Fidesz and only 33% for the MSZP. In light of the above, these figures don’t really make sense. As for the question of who is more suitable for the post of prime minister, Gyurcsány or Orbán, the results are again startling. It’s almost a dead heat: 33 percent chose Gyurcsány and 34 percent opted for Orbán. The majority of those participating in the survey is dissatisfied with both the government and its opposition, but the Fidesz voters are less satisfied with their own party’s political strategy than the socialist voters with their own party’s poliltics. The idea of an entirely new political party is rather popular among the Fidesz voters: 25% of them suggested such a solution, while among the socialists it’s only 8%.

What can one make of this? Given the unpopular reforms of the socialist-liberal government, I’m actually surprised that the results are not even worse for the socialists. The numbers don’t have much predictive value given the large group of undecided voters. But the fact that more people would want to keep this government rather than having the Fidesz return to power is simply incredible. That cannot be good news for Viktor Orbán.