Yesterday I wrote very briefly about a fascinating public opinion poll conducted by the Publicus Research Institute between October 11 and 13. Thanks to the staff of The Budapest Sentinel the Institute’s findings are now available in English.
In my last post I indicated that I was comforted by the good news that this poll conveys: Hungarians, despite intense government propaganda to the contrary, know full well that media freedom is trampled on more savagely today than at any other time in the history of the Third Republic. Yet in December 2015 Orbán had the temerity to claim that “the freedom of thought, speech, and the press in Hungary is more colorful, more encompassing, and more profound than in countries to the west of us.”
Today, after thousands of people had gathered to demand media freedom, the cynical Gergely Gulyás, one of the deputy chairmen of Fidesz, had the gall to express his bafflement at the purpose of the demonstration.
The original poll can be found on the webpage of the Publicus Research Institute.
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The Publicus Institution, at the behest of Vasárnapi Hírek (Sunday News) conducted a survey of 1000 people representative of public opinion with regard to their attitudes towards freedom of the press and their opinion about the suspension of Népszabadság. The majority of respondents believe that in Hungary today the press is not independent of the government, even though nine out of ten respondents believe press freedom to be important. 85 percent of Hungarians have heard of the suspension of Népszabadság, but only one-third have heard that it had come under the influence of a company close to Fidesz. Almost every second person surveyed said they read Népszabadság or nol.hu either regularly or intermittently. Most respondents believe the reason the paper is no longer being published is because it criticized the government and governing party politicians and because Fidesz limits press freedom. Two-thirds of respondents believe that currently Fidesz has the greatest influence over media, and nearly as many believe that of all the governments today, it is the Fidesz government which has greatest influence over media. Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe that the free press is seriously limited in Hungary today, and that state media coverage of the news is one-sided.
The majority of those asked believe that the press is not independent of the government in Hungary today. On a scale of one to five, the situation of domestic press freedom scored 2.7, meaning Hungary’s media is judged as not being free. It is rather MSZP voters who do not find the press to be free and independent. On average their score came to 2.1. Of all the social groups surveyed, only Fidesz voters thought the press to be free—their score averaged 3.4.
Nearly nine (87%) out of ten respondents think it is important that the free press remain independent of the government. On this question every societal group surveyed agrees.
85 percent of those surveyed had heard that Népszabadság had suspended its operations, but only one-third had heard that it had come under the influence of a company close to Fidesz.
Almost every second (43%) of respondents said they read either the print or online version of Népszabadság. The print version was rather read by MSZP voters, those over 60, and those with college diplomas. The online version was mostly read by MSZP and Jobbik voters, and people under 45 with high school or college diplomas.
The most common reason given by those surveyed for why the paper is no longer being published is because it criticized the government and government politicians (29 percent), or because Fidesz imposes limits on the free press (23 percent). Out of ten people, two (22 percent) list among the cause the fact that it was loss-making.
However, the final reason is only mentioned frequently (37 percent) by Fidesz voters. Among MSZP, Jobbik and uncertain voters the most important cause for the suspension was that it was critical of the government, the governing party and its members (53, 35 and 28 percent, respectively). Discounting Fidesz voters, every societal group examined believes limitations on the free press to be the second most important cause for the suspension (22 and 28 percent, respectively).
Two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) believe that presently Fidesz has the largest influence over the media, and altogether 2 percent think the left-wing does. In this question every societal group examined had a similar opinion. The Fidesz influence is best seen by Jobbik and MSZP voters (77 and 72 percent, respectively), while the left-wing influence is mostly seen by MSZP and Fidesz voters (8 and 5 percent, respectively).
Nearly two-thirds (59 percent) believe it is under Fidesz that the government exercises the largest influence over the press. Only 16 percent think that it was under the MSZP government.
Even Fidesz voters agree (46 percent to 25 percent opposed), but especially MSZP voters see this (75 percent to 20 percent opposed).
Nearly two-thirds of those questioned (59 percent) believe that in Hungary today the free press is greatly limited, and that state media is one-sided. A similar proportion (58 percent) think this is the case of the news reaching the most people.
A small majority of Fidesz voters agree that the freedom of the press is greatly limited in public media (45 percent to 43 percent opposed), while the vast majority of MSZP, Jobbik and undecided voters (70 percent, 69 percent, and 60 percent, respectively) believe this to be the case.
More details about the results of the study can be found in the Sunday News appearing on Saturday.