Medián has the reputation of being one of the more reliable pollsters in Hungary. If poor Mark were still with us he would immediately retort that they are all lousy. OK, let’s say that Medián is the least unreliable. It acquired its good reputation when its prediction was close to the real results of the 2002 elections when most pollsters were sure of a Fidesz landslide victory instead of a narrow loss.
In any case, Medián conducts polls for HVG every month. Medián and other more reputable pollsters have been showing a slow but steady decline in the governing party’s popularity. One or two percent every month which is indeed not significant until one adds it up and it turns out Fidesz has lost about 10% of its support since the elections. That is a sizable number of voters, about 600,000 between June 2010 and February 2011. A brave political commentator, László Kéri, predicted that in the next few months another 400,000 will turn away from Fidesz. How he comes up with such a number I have no idea, but we know that people are disappointed. Viktor Orbán’s popularity is still over 50%, but since last May he has lost 15% of his admirers.
People are fed up with politics in general, and only 41% of the representative sample say that they would definitely vote if elections were held this Sunday. A few months after the elections low participation is the rule, but according to Medián it has never been that low in the month of January after an election. Just to give you an example, in 2003 that number was 68% and even in 2007 it was still 50%.
There is also a huge group of people who today have no idea for whom they would vote. Last June it was 25% of the sample; this month it is 35%. The drop of support for Fidesz that has been slow and steady suddenly became dramatic. In one month Fidesz lost 7% of its support in the voting-age population–that is, about half a million people. These people didn’t flock to MSZP, which still stands at only 12%. The number of those who categorically say that they wouldn’t vote for Fidesz has also grown to 35%. On the other hand, Attila Mesterházy cannot be very happy when he hears that in the case of MSZP that figure is 60%!
Although as far as Fidesz’s popularity is concerned it is only now that there is a significant change for the worse, as far as general dissatisfaction with the state of affairs is concerned it has been noticeable for months. Between November and February more and more people, some 15%, have been feeling that the affairs of state are going in the wrong direction. By now more than 50% of the adult population are pessimistic concerning the future.
As far as the accomplishments of the government are concerned the news is bad for Viktor Orbán. Within three months 13% more people are dissatisfied with the Orbán government’s performance than before. Currently 56% of the people are dissatisfied.
I copied two graphs. The first one shows party preferences over time:
And the one below shows the people’s opinion of the Orbán government’s performance:
A cursory look of the first graph shows that MSZP support has been languishing at an anemic level. Not even dissatisfaction with the Orbán government is providing an uptick. The current leadership is trying to convince us that after such a huge defeat such a state of affairs is not unusual. In fact, they are happy that their support hasn’t shrunk further. By now, however, this excuse is sounding increasingly lame. I’m sure that Attila Mesterházy is a decent man who works very hard at keeping the fractious socialist party together, but the people I talked to all claim that with the current leadership the party will not be able to move out of its slump.
Today’s news is that Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition was admitted as one of the “platforms” of MSZP. The decision was unanimous. Mesterházy at last seems to have come around to Gyurcsány’s position that MSZP alone cannot fight this fight. Thus László Puch and most likely Tibor Szanyi lost. Mesterházy also said after the meeting of the board that internal squabbling is killing MSZP. The question now is how they can stop Szanyi from talking. A very difficult task because the man doesn’t know when to shut up. Moreover, he is one of the two MSZP MP’s who managed to get into parliament on their own. That gives him a certain amount of clout within the party.
As for Viktor Orbán and Fidesz I often wonder whether they have all their marbles. The world is crumbling around them while they are dreaming of moving the government to the Royal Castle, developing a museum district, and Orbán again is talking about moving himself into the Sándor Palace where Pál Schmitt currently has his offices. Almost like Nero fiddling while Rome burns.