A new Medián-HVG poll came out yesterday on the Hungarian people’s attitude toward migrants and immigration. The results were published in HVG‘s print edition yesterday and are not yet available online.
Given the Orbán government’s anti-refugee propaganda, I’m sure nobody will be surprised to learn that since September, when Medián conducted a similar poll, Hungarian xenophobia and aversion toward the migrants from the Middle East and Africa has grown substantially. In November 2014 only 66% of the population thought that acceptance of the refugees should be further restricted. By now 80% of the adult population demand such limits. The same is true when the question was about a restriction on the number of “colored people.” The proportion of Hungarians surveyed who would limit their numbers jumped from 47% to 60%. These negative feelings also spilled over to long-time Arab and black residents/citizens. Their acceptance rate dropped fairly significantly as a result of the migrant crisis and terrorist attacks. In the case of Arab residents from 38% to 30% and in the case of blacks from 42% to 37%. The figures on attitudes toward gays and Jews remained fairly stable.
During the same period people’s feeling of security decreased substantially. When respondents were asked what comes into their minds when they hear the word “fear,” more people (23%) named terrorism than illness, crime, or poverty. This fear is widespread and across party lines. Even DK sympathizers, who come from the least prejudiced segment of Hungarian society, shared this feeling of insecurity given the present situation in Europe.
More Hungarians now think that the migrants are more aggressive and demanding than in September. Today 83% of Jobbik, 68% of Fidesz, 65% of undecided voters, 40% of MSZP, and 31% of sympathizers of the smaller democratic parties are convinced that the migrants are belligerent and demanding.
One of the key elements of the government propaganda is the close relationship between terrorism and the migrants. The message has reached the population. The researchers confronted the respondents with two statements: (1) It is most likely the case that the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks came from the refugees arriving in Europe and (2) One cannot claim this; there is no proof. Fifty-six percent of the respondents agreed with the first statement and only 40% with the second. Even worse, 46% agreed with a very controversial claim of Viktor Orbán that “regardless of what anyone says, all terrorists are migrants.”
The respondents also had to indicate their feelings on a number of statements and mark the intensity of these feelings on a scale of 0-100. For example, “immigrants pose health risks for the native population” (77), “immigrants substantially increase the danger of terrorist attacks” (77), “those who illegally cross the borders will have to serve a jail sentence” (69). The statement that “immigration might have a beneficial effect on Hungary because it would remedy the demographic problems and would add to the labor force” elicited little enthusiasm (24). The government’s propaganda against quotas, on the other hand, has been successful. While in September the EU proposal regarding quotas received a score of 50, by November that number had dropped to 29. Even the topic “humane treatment of the refugees” suffered a setback (from 72 to 62 points). Moreover, the majority of Hungarians (56%) are convinced that “sooner or later Muslims will be in the majority in Europe and they will force their religion and culture on us.” Here is the breakdown according to party affiliation: Jobbik (71%), Fidesz (64%), MSZP 40%, other opposition parties (28%), and those without party preference (51%).
The fence is extremely popular. In September 68% of the population approved it, but by now 87% of the population stand behind Viktor Orbán’s solution to the migrant problem. The new supporters of the fence come from the left. In September Jobbik and Fidesz almost to the man stood behind the idea of building a fence and keeping out the migrants. The real change has taken place on the left where the number of supporters has grown by 30 percentage points.
Finally, what is the Hungarian public’s attitude toward the cause of the exodus The poll takers offered three different theories: (1) “The terror of the Islamic State and the civil war,” (2) “Growing poverty and hunger,” and (3) “Certain unnamed outside moving forces are behind the mass migration.” The absolute majority (54%) of those surveyed opted for choices #1 (37%) and #3 (37%), and only 18% agreed with the proposition that it is poverty and hunger war that are the cause of the wave of migrants. Besides the 37% who opted for the 3rd choice, for a follow-up question another 26% (thus, overall 63%) suspected that certain interest groups are behind the migration crisis.
When it comes to which “hidden power” is behind this conspiracy, most people suspect the United States, although a fair number pointed the finger at Israel, the Jews, or George Soros. Some of the combinations are really bizarre. For example, some people coupled Israel with the Islamic State as being behind the flow of migrants. It is not surprising that Jobbik voters are the ones who most readily believe these theories, especially when it comes to a Jewish conspiracy. Medián’s summary of their research doesn’t specifically talk about the attitude of Fidesz voters toward conspiracy theories, but given Viktor Orbán’s frequent references to George Soros as a serious contender to be one of the hidden forces behind the flow of refugees I would suspect that Fidesz voters are just as ready to espouse Jewish conspiracy theories in connection with the migration crisis as are Jobbik voters. Anti-American feelings are also fueled by the new government mouthpiece, Magyar Idők, whose editorials are full of vicious anti-American rhetoric.
The Hungarian government is largely responsible for the growth of xenophobia, fear of the refugees, and the spread of conspiracy theories. The result is an immense growth in the Fidesz camp, but at what price?