The Progressziv Intézet (Progressive Institute) together with Publicus Research conducted another poll that is worthy of analysis. It is about Hungarian attitudes toward Jobbik, the party of the far-right that has a very good chance of sending one or two representatives to the European Parliament. It also looks, as things stand now, that Jobbik will receive enough votes to get into the Hungarian parliament next year. The Progressive Institute wanted to know to what extent Hungarians are aware of the extreme nature of Jobbik. The answer in brief: not very much. They seem to be confused about the very concept of political extremism.
One of the questions asked was whether Jobbik poses any danger to Hungarian democracy. Interestingly only 36% of those asked replied in the affirmative. Twenty-eight percent didn't think that Jobbik was at all dangerous while a surprisingly high percentage "had no opinion." The question is how it is possible that that so many people don't know what Jobbik is all about. There are three possible explanations, says the Progressive Institute. First, the messages of Jobbik don't even reach the public, but that is hard to imagine. Here is one "message" that surely indicates that Jobbik is a danger to Hungarian democracy. On October 23, 2008, Gábor Vona, Jobbik's leader, gave a speech in which he said: "I send the message to [TV2 and RTL Klub] that they should be afraid of the day when Jobbik can decide their fate because we have already made our decision. . . . We will close TV2 and RTL Klub. But because we are very, very angry that will not be all. We will show their owners and editors where the exit is from this country and we will raze their headquarters to the ground. . . . Once history sweeps away this liberal rubble our time will come. And then Hungary to the last ounce of soil, to the last drop of water, to the last man will be ours."
The second possibility is that Hungarians "are unable to decode" Jobbik messages. Kornélia Magyar in a round-table discussion last night ("A tét," ATV) indicated that she and her co-researchers think that there are indeed problems with "decoding." People are confused because Fidesz sends mixed messages to its followers. Fidesz refuses to condemn Jobbik as a party with neo-nazi ideas. Moreover, Viktor Orbán's party actually adopts extreme positions in order to compete with Jobbik for the favor of its prospective voters. Thus the politically less sophisticated voters are uncertain about the nature of Jobbik's ideology. If Fidesz condemned Jobbik and called it what it is, the confusion would be less pronounced.
The third possibility is that in the undecided segment there are a large number of people who are "hiding" and who are actually Jobbik sympathizers. Let's look at the answers on the basis of party preference. Fidesz supporters are much more tolerant toward Jobbik. If you ask them whether Jobbik is a danger to Hungarian democracy 41% will disagree with this proposition. Only 10% will strongly agree and 25% will somewhat agree. The MSZP results are strikingly different. Among MSZP voters only 19% are not afraid of Jobbik while 56% find the party dangerous. The Fidesz results are especially interesting because it seems that the leadership's efforts to steer people away from Jobbik might not be successful. There may be a fair number of Fidesz supporters who actually sympathize with Jobbik. Among those who at present are unsure of how they would vote, those condemning Jobbik are in the majority. That leads me to believe that the unsure voters lean more to the left than to the right. However, we should note that 50% of the undecided voters couldn't answer one way or the other about Jobbik as a danger to democracy.
The next to last question was whether Jobbik's participation in the work of parliament would be beneficial. The pattern was similar to the previous results. Among Fidesz supporters 35% would look upon such a development with favor as opposed to MSZP voters where only 14% would consider Jobbik's participation in the work of parliament beneficial. Analysts' opinion on the question is split. There are those who think that parliamentary politics would "tame" Jobbik. After all, they couldn't speak in the House the way they speak on the street. Others doubt such an optimistic assessment.
Finally, the Progressive Institute posed a question about the possibility of a coalition between Fidesz and Jobbik. Here 36% were unable to answer the question. After all, in the past there were some unexpected coalitions. In 1994 SZDSZ to the last minute said there was no way they would form a coalition with the socialists. And then there was a coalition. Fidesz in 1998 said that it would never form a coalition with the Smallholders, but when it was clear that without the Smallholders there was no majority, they formed a coalition government. Those who answered the question are deeply divided. Thirty-one percent thought that a Fidesz-Jobbik coalition was a possibility, while 28% couldn't imagine such an outcome. Of course, it all depends on the results of the next elections. If Fidesz needs Jobbik, it will form a coalition even if the international community doesn't approve of such a move. Viktor Orbán could justify the move by contending that he would be able to "handle" Jobbik just as easily as he handled the Smallholders. Perhaps, but I wouldn't bet on it.