Two Hungarian polls: the referendum and health care

In the past two days there were two polls: one by Médián concerning attitudes toward the referendum tsunami and the other by GfK Hungaria (LHS Healthcare) based on in-depth interviews with 230 physicians.

According to Médián, the Hungarian public is not enthusiastic about the prospect of voting on the questions posed by either the Fidesz or the MSZP. Only four out of ten eligible voters would definitely bother to vote. That’s very low, especially since people tend to overstate their intention to vote. Lower than the 2005 referendum on the dual citizenship question, which was invalid because not enough people actually turned out to vote.

The pollsters asked the voters to express their opinions about the very idea of a referendum as a democratic instrument. Twenty-seven percent considered it important but added that referendums should be used rarely, only in the case of critical issues (membership in NATO or the European Union). Forty-one percent said that in theory referendums are a good idea, but politicians use them too often and therefore they are being discredited. Only twenty-seven percent thought "the more the merrier."

The responses did not split significantly along party lines. Although a larger percentage of Fidesz sympathizers were satisfied with the current practice (36% versus 17%), most still preferred fewer referendums, limited to more important issues.

More than a third of those questioned will not vote, 24% were unsure, and only 39% percent said they would definitely vote. This is a major shift from the July polls when almost 50% of the people indicated that they would vote. The Fidesz is trying to speed up the process (checking signatures, etc.) so that the referendum can be held as early as possible. Obviously they read trends well, but the clock seems to be ticking against them.

The other poll was not actually a poll in the traditional sense of the word but rather interviews conducted with doctors concerning the changes in the healthcare system. Uncertainty concerning their future is the overwhelming feeling among physicians. They don’t know how the reforms will affect their economic and professional situation. They also complained about the bureaucratic requirements vis-à-vis the Health Care Fund which, they claimed, makes their main task, caring for patients, almost impossible.

Those responses were predictable. The most interesting part of the survey was the doctors’ complaints that patients have begun to behave as consumers: they demand more attention for "their money," i.e. the copayment. The majority of the doctors find this new attitude irritating. According to some of them, the patients’ demands are often  unreasonable. But, of course, who knows what is unreasonable for a doctor and for a patient. Fortunately, a free market economy tends to sort these things out. And in most cases the consumer wins.