Political opinion in Hungary–Medián and Tárki

Two respectable opinion polls came out today with slightly different results but confirming one critical fact–that people who voted for Jobbik in the EU parliamentary elections came largely from the Fidesz camp. Medián specifically asked Jobbik voters about their political preferences in 2006. It turned out that only 14% of them had voted for MSZP. The rest either came from the right or were new voters. Tárki indirectly supports this result. Among those who said they would definitely go to the polls only 58% said that they would vote for Fidesz this Sunday while in May that number was 70%. A twelve percent drop is considerable especially if, again according to Tárki, MSZP gained only six percentage points during the same period. In fact, Tárki specifically states that "today, in comparison to the times prior to the EP elections, the number of Fidesz supporters has shrunk by the same number of percentage points as the Jobbik camp has grown." So although Viktor Orbán tries to minimize the problems stemming from the spectacular growth of Jobbik, his grandiose goals may be in jeopardy.

Another way to look at the change is to compare the survey results from March with those from June. Here I'm reproducing Tárki's bar chart showing shifts in party preferences of those who would definitely vote and who know for whom they would vote.Tarki Today MSZP, SZDSZ, and MDF have the same level of support they had in March; Fidesz is down four points, Jobbik is up six points, and "others" are down two points. I should add that in the most recent survey these voters represent at best a slim majority of the total sample; those who at the moment are uncertain for whom they would vote is 40%.  Moreover participation would be very low if elections were held today. According to Medián fewer than 50% of the voters would actually go to the polls. So that is another variable in trying to forecast the outcome of the national elections. Normally participation in national elections is more than 60%. Yet Medián is bold enough to predict that "whenever the next elections are held it seems that Fidesz will get the most votes." One reason for this assumption is that 86% of the voters, including  65% of the MSZP supporters, predict a Fidesz victory.

Medián asked some penetrating questions about Jobbik. Although many people after the EP elections proudly claimed that they knew all along that Jobbik would surpass the 5% minimum, according to Medián "two months prior to the EP elections only every twentieth person predicted such a success." Of course, as usual people are quite forgetful. Now fewer than 30% say that they were surprised at the showing of Jobbik. However, one must keep in mind that only 64% of them could even list the names of the parties that were able to send representatives to Brussels.

The majority were either very happy or more or less happy with the results. Twenty-one percent were very happy and 40 percent more or less happy. I assume that the Jobbik voters (close to 15%) are ecstatic and it is hard to tell what "the more or less" category actually means. I wouldn't draw the conclusion that Medián reaches that "public opinion is more tolerant of Jobbik than earlier." It may simply mean that Fidesz voters might have been more enthusiastic if the party had received 17 seats and not 14. Therefore they are more or less satisfied. Public opinion is very divided as far as Jobbik is concerned. Fifty-four percent consider the party "dangerous"  and 45% think that Jobbik is actually a "fascist" party. At the same time 39% (up from 34%) think that "only Jobbik really cares about the common man." Or they expressed the opinion that "Jobbik at last tells how it is."

Medián probed the topic of the relationship between Fidesz and Jobbik. A huge majority of MSZP voters felt that Fidesz should make clear its refusal to cooperate with an outright Nazi party. Those who voted for Jobbik insist that Fidesz should look upon them as allies. Then Medián continues: "It doesn't matter which way Fidesz moves, the party would lose voters because Fidesz supporters are themselves split on the issue." About one-third of Fidesz voters agree with the majority of MSZP while a little over one-third of them would prefer cooperation with Jobbik.

Medián tried to find an answer for Jobbik's success. It seems that its anti-Gypsy rhetoric was an important factor. Jobbik, a party almost no one had heard of a few months ago, started to gain momentum when crimes committed by Gypsies received widespread publicity. Medián checked the voting results according to the size of the Gypsy population and came to the conclusion that in cities where their population was greater than 5% Jobbik received almost 20% of the votes. Gypsies are highly concentrated in places where MSZP is normally strong, so the common wisdom right after the elections was that most of the Jobbik votes came from the left. However, it was also in these places where participation was low. The Medián assumption is that it was mostly MSZP voters who stayed home. As for where the Jobbik votes came from here is an interesting chart. JobbikszavazokMedián asked Jobbik voters which party they had voted for in 2006. If one can believe the information they provided, 9% either don't remember or will not tell; 24% are so young that in 2006 they were not eligible to vote; 15% didn't vote but were now inspired by Jobbik; 13% voted for the MIÉP-Jobbik joint ticket; 25% voted for Fidesz-KDNP, and 14% came from the MSZP camp. The very high percentage of first-time voters reaffirms suspicions about the popularity of extreme right ideologies among the youth.

The most dramatic aspect of these two opinion polls is that they clearly delineate the problem Fidesz is facing. The problem is  genuine: it doesn't matter which direction Fidesz moves, the party will lose a sizable portion of its voters. Right now the strategy is to ignore the problem. I guess the Fidesz leadership is hoping that Jobbik will lose its appeal. It will make one big mistake or many smaller ones that will make it less attractive. And that is a possibility. It is enough to think of the "conference" held in Szeged of the various extreme right-wing organizations including Gábor Vona (Jobbik) and György Budaházy, who might be the mastermind behind the Arrows of Hungarians, a terrorist organization. Budaházy is already in jail together with five other bomb makers. Then there are rumors that the parliamentary caucus in Brussels that the three Jobbik members wanted to join would take only Krisztina Morvai because she is not a member of a neo-Nazi party. So Orbán's calculations might be well founded. As a fall back position, if Jobbik survives or actually gains ground then Fidesz will make a deal with them in the belief that they can handle them. After all, they made a deal with the Smallholders of József Torgyán and no harm came of it. In fact, Fidesz was so successful that today there are no more Smallholders and József Torgyán pretty well retired from politics. But that is a gamble. Jobbik might be much more resilient and ideologically committed.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Malmomonster
Guest

Sorry to be off topic, but I’ve been told this is one of the the best bi-lingual Hungarian politics sites.
I’m writing a piece on the rise of the European far-right for a Swedish paper.
I just wanted to know please, is this an accurate translation of Kristina Morvai?



Koszonom!

whoever
Guest
“The very high percentage of first-time voters reaffirms suspicions about the popularity of extreme right ideologies among the youth.” It’s interesting, after nearly 8 years of a “socialist-liberal” government (which was neither in many senses), that the younger generation tend to support right-wing radicals. I suspect that it means many families now exist in a “new Hungary” cultural vacuum – where politics and history are rarely discussed in depth, where there is no tendency to read books. The main failure of the republic to date has been to engage with the people on a meaningful level. It’s an inevitable result of the elitist, centralised approach as followed by the SZDSZ and MSZP over the years. If the sky comes crashing on their heads next year they will have to look at themselves. I hope they flush themselves down the drain, to give more credible left parties a chance to emerge. Having said that, this dumbing-down is occuring across Europe and the USA – seemingly connected with the decline of reading among young people. It appears particularly steep here – there are a lot of houses I have seen with no bookcases at all. Whereas in the UK reading as a… Read more »
Mark
Guest
“Two respectable opinion polls came out today with slightly different results but confirming one critical fact–that people who voted for Jobbik in the EU parliamentary elections came largely from the Fidesz camp.” They don’t actually confirm any such thing. The interesting one is Medián because it underlines two important points which have not yet received the attention in the debate they deserve – namely the importance of the act of staying at home as an active determinant in election outcomes, and the importance of those with no prior political affiliation (first time voters). In terms of drawing broader conclusions let me give some health warnings about public opinion polling, especially in the context of party systems which are subject to significant change (as Hungary’s is at the moment). (1) We know from the success of sites like fivethirtyeight.com in the United States that public opinion polls are not reliable or precise predictors of election outcomes. Normally their raw data has to be subject to some statistical manipulation before they can be considered accurate. (2) This is for a number of reasons – a researcher asks someone a question in fieldwork for a poll (they come to the voter). In an… Read more »
Mark
Guest

“Medián checked the voting results according to the size of the Gypsy population and came to the conclusion that in cities where their population was greater than 5% Jobbik received almost 20% of the votes.”
Why just concentrate on cities? Surely given the concentrations of Roma populations in rural areas this isn’t very meaningful. And more importantly – what they say is true for northern Hungary, and the northern Great Plain region, it is not true west of the Danube. They need to explain the regional divergence.

Mark
Guest
Éva: “I don’t understand why you stick with such gusto to the theory that former MSZP voters make up the bulk of the extreme right’s constituency.” This isn’t quite what I’m saying – in fact I’m absolutely sure that some of the more extreme interpretations (that five-sixths of the Jobbik vote came from the MSZP)are wrong. It doesn’t look to me though that any more than a third of Jobbik voters are ex-FIDESZ voters (this actually could be argued to be consistent with Medián). Jobbik also has disproportionate appeal in areas where the local milieu let’s say has produced high MSZP votes in the past (this isn’t the same as saying that all of these people are former MSZP voters – though I suspect at least a quarter of them are). Clearly there is movement from first time voters and non-voters into Jobbik’s camp. I think the truth is a bit more worrying than either of these interpretations – that Jobbik has created a third camp which cannot be easily pigeon-holed into the established right-left spectrum. Éva: “This is simply cannot be maintained when you look at what MSZP voters think of Jobbik.” When one looks at the far right… Read more »
Mark
Guest

Éva: “One can only approach the question by indirect means.”
It can be done relatively reliably through using the tools provided by regression analysis to compare the detailed results of two sets of elections in order to provide an account of the movements of votes between parties and non-voters. Because the electoral authorities in Hungary publish results by polling place it should be possible to do this with a very high degree of reliability. It requires a nice big computer and people to input the data. This method is used routinely to compare the results of two sets of elections in countries other than Hungary, and companies like Infratest Dimap, for example, have been doing this for years for public service television in Germany. This kind of analysis will tell us infinitely more than opinion polls with tiny samples and flawed methodology ever will about where Jobbik’s voters came from.

whoever
Guest

Mark talks of “a larger working-class constituency which votes for the left on bread-and-butter issues, but when asked about cultural issues (law-and-order, the death penality, immigration, race)tends to have attitudes that place them on the hard right.”
This working class does exist in Hungary and it is disenfranchised in the way that you describe. It isn’t clear, though, that it maintains its own institutions – trade unions – here in the same way that it would in France, for example. This would make the appeal of the far-right far harder to counter.
To make things more complicated, younger generations are aspirational in a sense, and the vast majority of students appear to go into further study after leaving school. (I haven’t got the numbers for this). It’s not clear that these younger people would consider themselves working class at all after a lengthy college education, often geared towards business needs. The crucial question is: what future will exist for this group – what jobs? And who will they blame?

Gábor
Guest
“I suspect that the “new illiteracy” is more pervasive than we would imagine, and that the ignorance this engenders is creating a fertile bedrock for demogogues and cranks.” I wouldn’t call them illiterates in a strict sense, just look at those important elements of the extreme rightist subculture, Schythia Bookstores – it’s actually a chain – Gede testvérek, or just consider the success story of the Wass Albert texts. It’s a flourishing business, or at leest seems so and the youth belonging to this culture reads quite much. The problem is far more complex, I suspect that it begins with the public instruction system, where the state (more precisely local authorities) run system is slowly degraded, while a small island of private schools emerged seen as the last resort of quality teaching. But for example as the larger part of those schools are church run ones, you can imagine how the quite nationalistic clergy and church authorities in Hungary will indoctrinate their pupils. As the youth enters a university they won’t really find anything (at least at History Departments), but a lot of disillusioned and cynical teachers, who are still living and teaching in the ’80s, who manage a “scientific”… Read more »
Sophist
Guest

Got to agree with Gábor: in my experience – as a highschool teacher – the schoolkids advocating the “szebb jövőt” are more likely to be articulate and literate, what they lack is the logical skills to discriminate and the role models advocating sg positive about the status quo.
There is also a significant generational thing going on, in that new voters are now born after the system change. The charms of social and economic liberalism don’t appeal to them, because they – unlike their parents’ generation – haven’t experienced their absence.
I actually find the anti-consumerism the civic activism refreshing – reminds me of CND and Red Wedge in 80’s Britain. But here and now, it’s unfortunately allied to “racism” and irredentism.

Gábor
Guest
I actually tend to agree with Mark regarding the Median survey on the composition of Jobbik’s voter base, the problems with opinion polling, the importance of the rate of participation in determining the elections’ outcomes etc. I have my doubts concerning Eva’s disbelief on Jobbik’s capability to appeal to former MSZP voters. But I don’t think that those polls are necessarily problematic, questionabble etc. First of all they didn’t really registered any movement except in the case of Jobbik, but it can easily be what you mentioned, Jobbik supporters becoming less afraid of publicly declaring their allegiance. The figures for the total population – the reliable ones as the other derivatives are quite shaky because of the usually false prediction of voter turnout – didn’t change significantly. On the other hand it is not necessarily justified to take the EU elections as an gigantic opinion poll and compare polls taken on voting intentions for a parliamentary election to it, because of the low and uneven turnout. It doesn’t necessarily means that the MSZP has more chances at the latter, but it is possible that other factors are driving the crucial decision on whether to participate or not in the case… Read more »
whoever
Guest

Obliged to clarify – I absolutely agree that the younger people in the radical right in Hungary can be often articulate and literate, in my experience.
What I am saying is that mainstream modern Hungarian culture is anti-intellectual. I’m not talking about the paid-up activists – but the people who make up the majority of young people. So in the absence of a popular but intelligent mass culture, the space for the far-right to operate seems enormous.
The public libraries are run-down and I guess so are the school libraries. The culture of enquiry doesn’t exist – perhaps it never did, but in order to gain ground in the Party, at least people were forced to read a bit of something theoretical.

Sophist
Guest

whoever,
My school library is a sad joke – we possibly have more books at home, but this represents 3 generations of Sophists – the local library isn’t, nor is the new children’s library I visited recently.
But the book industry is deeply surprising: three major chains, Alexandra, Libri, Lira and Lant have large shops here, a county town. Knowing that my students aren’t reading anything other than Twilight, I have to wonder who is keeping all these guys going …. the mafia laundering money perhaps?
Having just read “Darkness at Noon”, I should point out that the Party did a good job at murdering “cultures of enquiry.” Social and Economic liberalism has done nothing to resurrect them.

Mark
Guest
Éva: “Karácsony was bitterly complaining about so-called political scientists and certain pollsters who serve political purposes and disregard “facts.” ” I absolutely agree with him – but he might just be in a stronger position if Medián itself was more transparent about its methods. Medián hasn’t put its research report up yet on its own website, and – in contravention of every commonly accepted international standard in the reporting of opinion poll data – the HVG article contains no information whatsoever about the survey its figures are based on. So, we know nothing about overall sample size, dates, methodology, or margin of error. It is at least common practice in the United States and the UK for polling companies to publish the raw data on their website to enable independent checking. Without this transparency, how does anyone know whether this survey is based on any more on “fact” than the opinions of “so-called political scientists”. This is quite important because it really makes all the difference as to whether this was a focussed survey of Jobbik voters with a decent sample size (say 400, for this purpose), or whether it was the subset of a standard survey of public opinion… Read more »
Gábor
Guest

” the HVG article contains no information whatsoever about the survey its figures are based on”
Actually it is on the illustration showing the popularity of politicians. As the results regarding Jobbik voters’ composition are in a complementary article it is the most probable that they surveyed the subset of the sample, 8% of the 1200 people. Not that reliable, although common practice in Hungary, Századvég used it for ages and now Forsense and Nézőpont (obviously among the pollsters serving political purposes, it is funny to have a pollong firm the results of which are always in full compliance with Fidesz’s political messages) are always ready to make serious-looking analyses of the opinions of the voters of different parties reagrding important policy issues.

Gábor
Guest
Éva, you are eager to dig out every bit of information, interpretation, data, assumption undermining the idea that Jobbik’s breakthrough is a result of its appeal to former Mszp voters. I do not condemn it, quite the contrary, having an advocatus diaboli is really advantageous for the discussion and you have quite legitimate points. But on the whole you are more inclined to accept that Jobbik’s result is due to a flow of radical Fidesz voters and former non-committed rather than leftists. I was only summarizing the lengthy debate in one sentence. Otherwise I don’t think that even if Karácsony and Medián would have right, the Mszp would have any chance to survive with supporting Bajnai’s government wothout objection. Not that I think its policies are completely flawed, based on a wishful thinking and a very limited knowledge even of economic thinking and theories, it is almost irrelevant in this case. Those policies simply won’t deliver any substantial result till next year and nobody will be really thankful, while the Mszp will simply seem to be a party of endless spending cuts and austerity measures. It can be appealing to some maniac economic liberals, but even the business circles favored… Read more »
Gábor
Guest

Oh, I’m always delighted to read so sophisticated argumentations. I’m completely disarmed and overwhelmed by the thorough and detailed reasoning.

Mark
Guest

Gábor: ” As the results regarding Jobbik voters’ composition are in a complementary article it is the most probable that they surveyed the subset of the sample, 8% of the 1200 people. Not that reliable, although common practice in Hungary.”
Well if that is the case all we can say with confidence is that they took significant numbers of votes from MSZP, FIDESZ, themselves, non-voters and first-time voters, but the margin of error is so large as to render the percentages meaningless.
As for it being common practice, it is clear from the way the results of such surveys are written up that there is a marked lack of understanding of methodology. Such articles end up being little more than unsupported opinion liberally laced with a few percentages deplyed by the author for rhetorical effect.

Mark
Guest
Éva: “Everything, but everything we know up to now contradicts it.” We have to be very clear that it doesn’t. What we do know suggests two things: 1) That thinking about this in the terms of the bi-polar left-right split and trying to classify Jobbik as “left” or “right” is flawed. In fact, as a way of thinking it says more about political prejudices of those advancing the argument (either way) than it does about Jobbik support. What we are seeing is the emergence of a new form of political division with a large right-wing party (FIDESZ) in the centre of the Hungarian spectrum, flanked by two smaller camps – the remains of the left, and a right radical one. The real question is how we describe that new camp. 2) Most committed FIDESZ voters are actually much more enthusiastic and committed to voting for their party than in the 2002-2006 cycle. Therefore the rate of attrition of votes from FIDESZ to Jobbik accounts for no more than a third of Jobbik’s total support. Whereas you suggest Jobbik’s emergence poses a difficulty for FIDESZ in the 2010 election, this conclusion would lead one to believe that the real threat Jobbik… Read more »
wpDiscuz