Since the middle of the month several polls measuring party preferences have appeared. Ipsos, the first to report among the pollsters, measured a downward trend for Fidesz and an upward one for MSZP. At that point, among the adult population eligible to vote Fidesz led with 16%, MSZP followed with 13% while the undecided moved up from 51% to 54%.
Ten days later Századvég, a team close to Fidesz, found that the government party had a substantial lead. According to them 24% of the adult population would vote Fidesz and only 15% for MSZP.
Today it was time for Tárki to come out with its latest results. Tárki’s data were collected between May 17 and 22, after Ipsos had already published its results. If Tárki’s data accurately reflect the situation, Fidesz has lost 5% of its support in one month. In April Tárki measured 21% Fidesz support in the population as a whole; a month later in May it was down to 16%. Over the same period the socialists gained 3%. In April Tárki reported 13% for MSZP; that number is now 16%. Thus, an entirely novel situation has occurred in these past two months: for the first time the two parties have exactly the same level of support. But what is truly amazing is that this also holds true for those who definitely plan to vote. Thirty-two percent of the voters would vote for Fidesz and 31% for MSZP. This is significant because normally Fidesz supporters are more determined voters than the socialists. I should also mention that, according to Ipsos, Viktor Orbán received only 28 points on a scale of 100 when it came to popularity this month. This is the lowest ever measured by Ipsos. Even Attila Mesterházy of MSZP received more points (30) than the prime minister.
Tárki also published on its website a graphic summary of changes in popularity among Hungarian parties.
I was especially struck by the changes of the category (in blue) of those who either don’t have a party preference or who simply refuse to divulge it. You may notice that every time the percentage of Fidesz voters (orange) went up, the number of the undecided went down. See especially November 2010, August 2011, and March 2012. Now that the popularity of Fidesz is declining the number of undecided voters is going up again. Historically, among the undecided the majority usually end up with the socialist party.
As for the inordinate number of undecided voters, my feeling is that, although the numbers are high, they are perhaps not so high as the pollsters report. Concern over Fidesz’s intentions is most likely very real among people who will not vote for Fidesz. Fear is gripping those who are not behind the two-thirds majority. You have no idea how many letters I receive expressing real fear about the consequences of being openly critical of the government.
People hear about all sorts of data gathering by Fidesz and about lists that are being prepared of people who are known MSZP voters. People are convinced that the questionnaires periodically prepared and distributed to all voters on an assortment of bogus questions parading as “national consultations” are simply tools for information gathering. People are in a real quandary over what to do; the fourth such questionnaire was mailed just yesterday. After all, these questionnaires have bar codes that include all the necessary information about the recipients. If they don’t send the questionnaire back, the very fact of their refusal tells something about them to the government and the government party.
And finally here is another Tárki graph that shows party preferences in the last two months in the electorate as a whole:
While support for Jobbik, LMP, and DK has fluctuated in the last two months, Fidesz’s support is steadily declining while MSZP’s is steadily growing. That can safely be called a trend.
I might also mention here that Fidesz’s attack on Ferenc Gyurcsány in connection with his senior thesis might be responsible for DK’s decline. The standing of Jobbik is fairly stagnant. Two years ago Ipsos registered 9% support and now the number is 10%. Tárki put their support at 11%. I find this interesting because one often hears about a fear of Jobbik’s incredible strength and that perhaps in two years time they can even win the elections. I have no such fear. What I worry about is a deal between Fidesz and Jobbik if Fidesz alone cannot form a government in 2014. I’m sure that Viktor Orbán is not finicky. He would make a deal with the devil if that would assure him the position of prime minister between 2014 and 2018.