This is the third poll that shows a decrease in Fidesz's popularity. Perhaps because the data collection took place after the appearance of the other two, Medián and Tárki, the change is even more dramatic. In earlier months the decrease in support was gradual. In May and June 3.3-3.4 million people considered themselves Fidesz supporters. Between then and November, Fidesz lost 300,000 voters who didn't immediately declare themselves to be potential voters for other parties but simply went over to the large group of the undecided. But in November and early December (the poll was taken between December 8 and 15) another 300,000 left Fidesz, and this time all three opposition parties actually gained supporters.
Fidesz suffered its greatest loss among young voters and people with higher education. In these groups altogether 10% of the supporters disappeared while the average loss was 4%. Such a trend is not unexpected but what surprised me was the larger losses suffered in villages and in smaller towns where Fidesz has been very strong ever since its leadership decided to move from the left to the right of the political spectrum.
Public disappointment had to come after the heightened expectations that followed Viktor Orbán's sanguine announcements of a new era that would be radically different and naturally much, much better than what preceded it. "Monday morning you will wake up in a new Hungary," said Orbán on the eve of the elections. People woke up, looked around, and the world didn't look any different. Or if it was different, it was not a change for the better due to the mistakes made by the government. In fact, what surprised everybody was that disappointment didn't set in a great deal earlier.
The relative optimism lasted until about November when half of the population still thought that better days lay ahead and only 37% were critical of the government's handling of its affairs. By the end of November the mood had shifted: today 48% look upon the future with trepidation and only 40% support the government's policies.
MSZP's camp hasn't grown since the elections: around 800,000-1,000,000 voters. The difference is, and this might be significant, that they are more active. The percentage of MSZP supporters who claim that they would definitely go and vote reached the level of the usually much more eager Fidesz supporters. The public perception of MSZP is also changing for the better. In May 34% of those asked considered MSZP a party they would never vote for. In the fall there was a slight change: only 27-30% of the voters had a violently negative attitude toward the socialists. And finally in mid-December only 20% would definitely say no to MSZP in the voting booth.
During the fall both smaller parties, Jobbik and LMP, lost votes but according to this latest poll both parties have regained some of their lost voters. The graph shows the changes in party preferences in the voting population as a whole. Note the incredibly large group of people who have no preference. That means that unless Fidesz is capable of turning things around in a hurry–and I don't think that there is the likelihood of dramatic changes in the economy– the undecided voters might slowly move over to the opposition parties. My hunch is that most of them will return to MSZP, which was after all the other large party in the last two decades. Especially if MSZP manages to unite at last instead of continuing its infighting.
I was listening to György Bolgár's program this morning; today János Dési was conducting the interviews. He had a conversation with the humorist Tivadar Farkasházy, who is the editor-in-chief of a satirical journal called Hócipő (Galoshes). Why galoshes? Because there is a saying in Hungarian "my galoshes are full," meaning I'm really fed up. Farkasházy very rightly noted that as long as the opposition forces cannot get together, burying their differences, they will never be successful. For example, today university students organized a demonstration against the media law, but they pointedly told the public that anyone connected with a political party should remain at home.
The graph on the right shows the party preferences of those who definitely would vote if elections were held this Sunday. One can see changes in the last three months. While the growth in support for Jobbik and LMP is very slight, the 6% loss in the case of Fidesz is fairly substantial. MSZP has done relatively well. This is the first time since the elections that over 20% of the voters would vote for the socialists. However, one must keep in mind that huge mass of undecided voters.
I received a letter from one of our readers who helped me out with the name of the chief-of-staff of Gábor Kuncze. His name is András Gyekiczky. He was also chief-of-staff of Mayor Gábor Demszky of Budapest.
I would like to call everybody's attention to a very helpful tool: Szonda Ipsos has something they call "Grafikon rajzoló." With it one can follow the fortunes of parties and politicians from June 1998 to date. Under the "party" rubric, one can choose between "population as a whole" and "definite voters."
And here is another piece of news about a new full-fledged internet newspaper in Hungarian published in New York: Amerikai Magyar Népszava. In the past, the paper appeared only weekly but today László Bartus, the editor-in-chief, came out with a new, expanded format. It became a daily. The date of the first appearance of the paper in this format is no coincidence. It was today that the Hungarian parliament voted for the introduction of the new media law. As Bartus proudly announces: the Hungarian rules and regulations don't apply to him and his paper. The coverage of U.S. news will be welcome to Hungarian readers without a knowledge of English. Take a look.