Hungarian social scientists protest Viktor Orbán’s “National Consultation”

Below you will find a statement signed by a number of Hungarian sociologists who strongly object to the questionnaire the Hungarian government designed for the alleged purpose of gauging Hungarian public attitude toward refugees and immigrants. The twelve questions can be found in an earlier post.

Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission, wrote about this questionnaire on Facebook:

Public consultation can be an important tool for governments and other public authorities to develop policies that can count on support of the population. In this context, it is entirely up to the Hungarian authorities if they want to consult the people on migration. But a public consultation based on bias, on leading and even misleading questions, on prejudice about immigrants can hardly be considered a fair and objective basis for designing sound policies. Framing immigration in the context of terrorism, depicting migrants as a threat to jobs and the livelihood of people, is malicious and simply wrong – it will only feed misconceptions and prejudice. It will create and fuel negative attitudes towards minorities and it will stimulate confrontation between different groups in society. It is wilfully misleading to present migrants only as a burden to our economies and societies, without any mention of their contribution. When we address the many challenges posed by migration today, we must look at the issue in a frank, open and balanced way. We should not close our eyes to the sometimes serious challenges posed by migration in our societies. But in doing so, we should never lose sight of our fundamental values and of the need to preserve a pluralist and diverse society, based on mutual respect and equal treatment of every individual.

Professionals familiar with designing public opinion surveys agree and strongly object to this kind of manipulation.

Anyone who’s interested in joining the undersigned can add his or her signature to the list of names below at http://www.peticiok.com/tarsadalomkutatok_a_nemzeti_konzultaciorol

Johannes Sadeler, Hell, 1590

Johannes Sadeler, Hell, 1590

* * *

Social scientists on the National Consultation

The questionnaire for the National Consultation about “immigration and terrorism” – posted on the Hungarian government’s webpage with the intention of being mailed to all citizens in the coming weeks -, similarly to previous consultations of this sort, is a tool of political mobilization concealed as public opinion research. Even if we ignored the widely disputed substantive content of the questions, it remains apparent that the questionnaire was put together in total disregard of the methodological canons of public opinion research. We understand that the authors of the questionnaire did not intend to play by the rules of scholarly research, but we feel obliged to bring the attention of the public to the unprofessional, manipulative character of the questions.

  1. The questionnaire adopts a graded response scale, which is characteristic for public opinion surveys. Such response scales can use even- or odd-number response options, but must maintain neutrality and balance with respect to the statement that they record the responses to. The response scales used in the planned “National Consultation” do not comply with this requirement. They also offer three response options, but the middle one is not a neutral (e.g. “neither agree nor disagree”) option but a hesitant approval. Thus, if undecided respondents tick this middle option, or some respondents pick their responses at random, they both help to make the statement in the question – invariably the policy opinion adopted by the government – appear to be the choice of the majority, even if that was not the case.
  2. It is standard practice in public opinion research to introduce questions by saying that “Some people think … [something], while others think … [the opposite]”. This is useful because it assures respondents who may be hesitant to state their true opinion that both sides of the given argument are legitimate opinions. It is also important to phrase the alternatives in a balanced way that does not artificially make one opinion more attractive than the other irrespectively of agreement or disagreement with its substance. The questionnaire of the National Consultation does not meet this requirement because all three questions that start by saying “that some people say” identify only one alternative, which always coincides with the prime minister’s position about the subject matter. It is well-documented in studies of public opinion that asking for the expression of agreement/disagreement with only side of an argument facilitates ‘yeah-saying’ (acquiescence bias) among weakly committed respondents and thus distorts our picture about true public opinion.
  3. It is well-known among public opinion researchers that the order and phrasing of the preceding questions can systematically shape the responses that one obtains to any question. The questionnaire of the National Consultation is suggestive from this point of view as well. Both its title and the first three questions link “profiteering immigrants” – a pejorative neologism for immigrants attracted by better economic opportunities away from their homeland – to the obviously negative phenomenon of terrorism, thus increasing the probability that the rest of the questionnaire will find negative attitudes toward immigrants.
  4. The perhaps most important requirement for a credible survey of public opinion is an appropriate sampling of respondents from the given population. Lay people often think that more respondents always mean a more accurate picture of public opinion, and National Consultations are often claimed to represent true public opinion on this account. But this is in fact a false belief and a large number of respondents in no way guarantees that the sample well represents the public at large. If respondents were not selected with rigorous scientific methods but rather by “self-selection,” then there is a high probability that their voice will represent those who had a strong opinion or emotion motivating them to respond. In the case of the National Consultation, in particular, it can be taken for granted that the self-selection will produce politically one-sided results, since it is the Prime Minister himself who asks citizens to respond to his questions.
  5. It further undermines the validity of the results of the National Consultation that the questionnaire does not query the socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents, i.e. it does not provide data about their sex, age, education, income position, etc. Thus there is no way that appropriate weighting procedures could statistically correct the inevitable but systematic shortcomings of any sampling procedure, or that serious analyses of the results could be attempted.

All in all, the National Consultation is not a public opinion poll. Although the Prime Minister’s invitation letter to citizens calls it a “consultation” that prepares the way for some policy decisions, all other appearances aim to reinforce the mistaken impression that the invitation is to a conventional public opinion survey. Yet the manipulative use of the tools and appearances of a public opinion poll by the National Consultation merely highlights the fact that genuine studies of public opinion that could help both decision makers and the public to find out public opinion about policy alternatives are in fact disappearing from the Hungarian public sphere. Such studies could only be carried out by credible researchers who comply with the professional and ethical norms of public opinion research. Only audited institutions complying with high scientific standards should be entrusted with studies of public opinion, with all contracts and resulting databases available for public scrutiny. The government could spend public money on such inquiries: hundreds of them would be financed from the billions spent on the fake national consultations.

Zoltán Balázs, university professor, Corvinus University
Iván Balog, sociologist, University of Szeged
Ildikó Barna, sociologist, ELTE
László Beck, sociologist, Medián
András Bíró-Nagy, research director, Policy Solutions
Balázs Böcskei, political scientist, ELTE
Zsolt Boda, sociologist, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
József Böröcz, sociologist, Rutgers University
László Bruszt, university professor, European University Institute, Florence
György Csepeli, president of the Hungarian Association of Sociologists
Ágnes Darvas, sociologists, ELTE
Zsolt Enyedi, political scientist, Central European University
Zsuzsa Ferge, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Anikó Gregor, sociologist, ELTE
Endre Hann, social psychologist, Medián
István Hegedűs, sociologist, Hungarian-European Association
Béla Janky, sociologist, Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Budapest Engineering University
Angéla Kóczé, sociologist, Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Wake Forest University
Éva Kovács, sociologist, Budapest/Vienna
Balázs Krémer, sociologist, University of Debrecen
Zoltán Lakner, political scientist, ELTE
Orsolya Lelkes, sociologist, University of Vienna
Balázs Majtényi, ELTE
Béla Marián, unemployed public opinion researcher
Bálint Misetics, researcher, social policy
Antal Örkény, sociologist, ELTE
Ágnes Rényi, sociologist, ELTE
Péter Róbert, sociologist
Dániel Róna, political scientist, Covinus University
Ágota Scharle, economist, Budapest Institute
Endre Sík, sociologist, TÁRKI
Andrea Szabó, sociologist
Ildikó Szabó, professor emeritus, University of Debrecen
Mária Székelyi, professor emeritus, ELTE
Iván Szelényi, member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Pál Tamás, researcher, Corvinus University
Róbert Tardos, sociologist, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, ELTE
Gábor Tóka, sociologist, Central European University
Csaba Tóth, director of strategy, Republikon Institute
Anna Unger, poliltical scientist, ELTE
Balázs Váradi, economist, ELTE
Mária Vásárhelyi, sociologist, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Anna Wessely, sociologist and historian of art, ELTE
Tibor Závecz, sociologist, Ipsos
János Zolnay, sociologist

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Member

A triple hit of sadness in one week —

Racial segregation of schools, now legal in Hungary.
Proposed reinforcement the death penalty.
Proposed forced work internment camps, for illegal immigrants.

_

From the government’s side; all sense of moral shame has gone, Nationalism is now a perverted tool, to fuel bigoted fear and racist Fidesz propaganda.

Additionally, the overwhelming evidence of the state sponsored, personal wealth schemes for their inner circle. It feels like a tsunami against the population as a whole.

The unspoken Fidesz mantra is; protect ourselves whilst we enrich ourselves; at the expense of the country. It’s narcissistic not nationalistic.

Depressing on many levels, including the notion nationalism at all.

Pick up
Guest

What racial segregation do you think? Do you hate religion or religious schools, which are strongly represented in the educational systems of Western Europe and the United states? Can you name which christian religions are based on racism?

Guest

Troll alarm!

Member

This segregation: Nyíregyháza elementary school.
No, I think they are mostly ok.
Apparently, the Greek Catholic Church in Hungary.

Live long and prosper
Guest

Just when you think this gargoyle-like prime minister can’t get any worse, he finds another way to prove himself to be an uglier person than you previously imagined possible.

LwiiH
Guest

I don’t think you need to now much about poll taking to recognize that this is amateur time at the zoo once again.

Speaking of amateur time, I don’t know who is doing the translation work for the airport but it’s gotten very bad lately. I’m used to confused and/or awkward use of the word ‘until’ but the mistakes I’m seeing now go way beyond that.

Webber
Guest

Might be the same person who’s doing translation for MAV – the train company:
“Please take care on your waluables….”

Guest
A CHRISTIAN CONSULTATION WITH VIKTOR ORBAN The Good Samaritan found and helped a man who had been robbed naked and beaten by highway robbers. The victim was not a Samaritan. Would you have helped a man who didn’t belong to your own people? Jesus said in the mountain sermon: “Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.” This is a promise of a reward in Heaven for something done on Earth. Does such a promised influence your behavior? Is a poor person predestined by God to be poor? Should childen suffer for the sins of their fathers? According to the evangelist Mark: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Is somebody who lives in another village your neighbor in the sense of the evangelist? The tenth commandment says: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Do you think that this commanment covers property that belongs to everybody in common? The first wish in the Lord’s Prayer is: “thy kingdom come”. Can the comming of Gods kingdom be helped by a line in the constitution? Does… Read more »
Pick up
Guest

Can you interpret your above comment for “Budapest Calling”. According to “Budapest Calling” user Christian religion and religious schools are equal with racism.

spectator
Guest

Why don’t you just read the comment fully, before you’re flapping around?

If you managed, you may even point out the sentence where you read “Christian religion and religious schools are equal with racism” – otherwise you must have some serious bug in your system what you may intended to take care of…
Good luck!

Webber
Guest

Pick up: Are you with Friends of Hungary, CÖF, Országimázs központ/program, or the PM’s office? If none of those, please let us know the name of your employer. It’s nice to know where our tax money is going.

csicsek
Guest

As far as Orban is concerned only for this letter “the national consultation” was worth it.

There is no greater fun and enjoyment to be had by Orban and his pals than seeing intellectuals (for the average fidesznik reader meaning simply liberal, urban jews) complain.

tappanch
Guest

Death penalty, immigration, “national consultation” are all RED HERRINGS !

Why should we take the Fidesz propaganda bait?

The real issue is the large-scale theft of Hungarian and European public money !

(e.g. bankrupt banks and brokerages, where the money has disappeared in the Fideszian sinks)

Fidesz does not want to leave the EU, they want to skim the EU funds – so Fidesz will not introduce death penalty.

MusicLover
Guest

I agree wholeheartedly with Tappanch. Orban brought up the topic of the death penalty to create precisely the sort of hoo-ha we are witnessing now. His advisors probably think it will bolster his image among some of his wavering supporters (I’m unconvinced this is the way to do it), it gets everyone talking, and the brokerage scandals and the like are forgotten.

The “liberal establishment” (which I don’t mean pejoratively) has taken the bait sadly…

Cujkás
Guest

I agree that it was a bait which the liberal establishment swallowed hook, link and sinker (for the umpteenth time; it is apparently unable to learn) and by making so much noise it is complicit in spreading Orban’s (let’s face it very popular) ideas.

Moreover, many people instinctively think something must be good if liberal “jews” complain. This means to them that Orban is fighting the enemy and doesn’t give in to Western pressure — whose agents are the urban liberal leftists hell-bent on selling Hungary to the multinational interests.

These idiotic ideas of Orban and Habony must be ignored. These intellectual should fight changes in the higher education, those are important long-term. This is communication gimmick, a desperate attempt to increase Orban’s popularity. Some wise man said once: choose your battles carefully – of course this letter is not a battle and by writing such letters said intellectuals think they actually did something when in fact it’s a nice example of a substitute act if ever there was one.

István
Guest

Music lover I think it would be extraordinarily unwise for the political opposition not to respond to the Fidesz discussion of a death penalty bill. Sometimes in politics even if you are faced with a diversion you are politically compelled to respond. Part of that response should include the possibility that the entire discussion takes the Hungarian people away from addressing the institutionalized corruption of Fidesz. But ignoring this issue would be wrong.

Let’s be clear here in the USA we executed a good number of innocent people, because of mistakes made by both prosecutors, police, and the legal system itself. I think it was An on this blog who noted once the State kills someone you can never correct a prosecution mistake, her point is well taken. Just for the record I am opposed to the death penalty even in the military justice system here in the US, Just for the record there have been no military executions since 1961 although the death penalty is still a possible punishment for several crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the USA.

MusicLover
Guest
I’ve been very strongly opposed to the death penalty all my life but I don’t think people who take the opposite view are knaves and villains. I can understand the arguments and I don’t lose sleep feeling sorry for the Nazis who were hanged at Nuremberg, so my own opposition is not totally consistent. In the UK, I’m probably in a minority, but to find this out, I would be in favour of a referendum, not to put it into law but just so that there is a clear debate and the politicians know for a fact what the electorate feels. So I don’t have any problems with their being a parliamentary debate or a public debate in Hungary about corporal punishment. The issue at hand is Orbán deliberately stirring up a hornets nest to distract. And the willingness of the “liberal establishment” to be stirred up. I think the wording of the “consultation” is immeasurably more outrageous than comments about the death penalty. But we have now forgotten Quaestor which is part of the plan, I suspect. The other thing is that there is a big difference between Orbán saying he is in favour of it, and presenting it… Read more »
Guest

Of course!
All this “Orbánising” is just a diversion from the real economic problems of Hungary – where are those one million new jobs that were promised?

Julio
Guest

Everybody’s favorite “Atlanticist” Janos Martonyi continues to be hyper-loyal to Viktor Orban and Peter Szijjarto.

And the “reset” apparently worked, the relations are jolly good between Hungary and the US.

http://index.hu/kulfold/2015/04/30/elmaradt_szijjarto_ekezese/

Webber
Guest

“relations are jolly good between Hungary and the US”
If you believe Mártonyi and Szijjártó…
(Shattuck does not represent the US in any way).

gardonista
Guest

There’s an easier way to describe the “national consultation.” In the US, it’s called a push poll.

Member

It’s time for the opposition to start their own push polls. I can imagine a few questions, like

“Would you vote for Viktor Orban, if he had secret Swiss bank accounts?”
or
“Should Tamás Deutsch resign from the EP if he is cocaine addict?”
or
“Would you send Antal Rogan to prison if he embezzled money during his term as a mayor?”
or
“Would you still support the FIdesz if the Forint collapsed?”

Let’s see what happens …

Webber
Guest

That is not a bad idea.

Webber
Guest

For those who argued that Hungary should copy the U.S. immigration system because they think it is more restrictive than European systems, I quote:
“The US took in about 70,000 UN registered refugees last year – the same as the rest of the world combined.”

Article below – and before someone jumps to the wrong conclusion based on the above, I’ll note that it is not complimentary about American border controls:
https://euobserver.com/justice/128536

Guest

Re: ‘Just when you think this gargoyle-like prime minister can’t get any worse, he finds another way to prove himself to be an uglier person than you previously imagined possible’

Orban may be ‘ugly’ but I’d say it is worse to know that he appears to be a fellow who knows absolutely what he’s doing. Those are the kinds of guys that do real damage to a nation and its image.

Like ‘Mistah’ Putin, he flouts earlier paradigms of relationships be it political or social or religious and tries to implement hell or high water. I hope the U.S. diplomatic corps isn’t blinded with cataracts when eyeing the fellow. But ‘politics’ can do it though.

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