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. 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. Medián 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.