Tag Archives: Endre Hann

Medián: Serious loss for Fidesz, gain for Jobbik

The latest findings of Medián published in HVG bore the witty title “Universal Decline,” reflecting the pollsters’ belief that the drop in Fidesz’s popularity is largely due to Viktor Orbán’s decision to launch a frontal attack against Central European University.

This reversal in the fortunes of the party is considerable. While in January 37% of the electorate would have voted for Fidesz, that percentage has now shrunk to 31%. This amounts to the loss of almost half a million voters. Underlying this drop is a general dissatisfaction with the governing party. Medián usually asks its respondents to name the one party they would under no circumstances vote for. In January only 37% of the respondents named Fidesz, but by now 46% of those surveyed said they would never cast their vote for the government party. In January half of the electorate were satisfied with the work of the government; today it’s only 40%. In January 46% of the people were hopeful about the future. Today that number has plummeted to 33%, with 57% expecting worse times to come. The percentage of those who want a change of government in 2018 has increased from 48% to 52%.

Left–red: total population; green: electorate; orange: active voters. Right–after the list of parties come the categories “doesn’t know,” “doesn’t tell,” “definitely will not vote”

After looking at these figures, one can safely say that Viktor Orbán’s decision to take on George Soros and CEU was politically unwise. At yet it’s fairly easy to see how and why it came about. Orbán and his strategists, when developing their political moves in preparation for next year’s election, were most likely convinced that their winning card was Viktor Orbán’s very successful handling of the migrant issue. Whether we approve or disapprove of his methods, from his own point of view his refugee policy was a roaring success. An overwhelming majority of the population fully support Orbán’s policies, including many who did not previously vote for Fidesz. Thus Orbán and his strategists quite logically opted to continue the same loud anti-migrant rhetoric. Everything else–the personal attacks on George Soros, on Central European University, on the NGOs, and on Brussels–were meant to serve this purpose. Unfortunately for Orbán, the grand strategy turned out to be a bust domestically, and his government’s standing in Europe has sunk to its lowest level in the last seven years.

By the way, the Medián poll debunks a widely held view that outside of Budapest (and the Budapest intellectual elite in particular) people are largely ignorant about the anti-government demonstrations and their precipitating cause–the attack on CEU. Among those surveyed, about 80% had heard of the demonstrations, and half of those named the attempted closing of CEU as the cause of the protests. They didn’t even need any prompting; they offered the information on their own. People in the countryside (vidék) are just as well informed on this issue as the inhabitants of Budapest. The great majority of Hungarians think it would be a shame if the government shuttered CEU. Only 32% think that CEU is in a privileged position vis-à-vis other Hungarian universities and that therefore the government is justified in its efforts to close it down.

While we are on the subject of CEU, I would note that there seems to be total disarray in government circles about their plans to deal with this issue. Péter Szijjártó this morning, in an impromptu press conference, was still talking about an intergovernmental agreement between Hungary and the United States even though it had been made crystal clear to Budapest that the U.S. federal government is not authorized to negotiate with a foreign power on the fate of an educational institution. Undersecretary László Palkovics, who has been suspiciously quiet in the last few weeks, published a highly insulting article in the conservative Canadian National Post titled “Calling out Michael Ignatieff.” He accused the president of CEU of “hijacking academic freedom in Hungary.” In the article he repeats the old Hungarian demand of “a bilateral agreement between the institution’s country of origin and Hungary.” As if nothing had happened in the interim. Viktor Orbán is refusing to answer questions on CEU. He sent ATV’s reporter to László Trócsányi, minister of justice, who is supposed to come up with some clever legal answer to the European Commission’s objections. At the moment, however, he is “extremely uncertain” as to the legal underpinnings of the EC’s position on the issue. One thing is sure. The Hungarian government will wait until the last possible moment to respond to the European Commission on the CEU case.

To round out this post, let’s go back to the Medián poll to see who benefited from the drop in Fidesz support. The real winner was Jobbik, which gained four percentage points. In January 10% of the electorate would have voted for Jobbik. Today it is 14% which, given Jobbik voters’ enthusiasm for going to the polls, means that the party would receive 20% of the actual votes cast. This sudden jump in popularity is most likely due to the highly successful Jobbik “You Work—They Steal” campaign.

Collectively, the parties on the left also gained four percentage points. Those who expected miracles from László Botka’s announcement of his readiness to head MSZP’s ticket in preparation for the 2018 election must be disappointed. MSZP’s 9% is nothing to brag about, especially since Botka has been canvassing the country for the last month. MSZP’s standing is practically the same as it was in January. As for his own popularity, his name by now is widely known, but his popularity hasn’t moved upward. The two great losers in the popularity ranking are Viktor Orbán (-9) and János Áder (-11).

One more interesting item. Endre Hann and Zsuzsa Lakatos, who coauthored the article on the Medián poll, state that “the extrusion of Ferenc Gyurcsány … proved to be divisive. Two-thirds of MSZP voters would still like to see him ‘in an important political role.’ On the other hand, it is true that Botka … is considered to be a qualified candidate for the premiership by 54% of the DK voters.”

I’m curious what Viktor Orbán’s next step will be. So far there has been a reluctance to drop the divisive and damaging CEU affair, which is eating away at his support. Moreover, he is being confronted with a growing anti-Russian sentiment and charges of Vladimir Putin’s stranglehold on Viktor Orbán. László Kéri, an astute political observer, is certain that today “we live in a different world from the one a couple of months ago.” He predicts that the decline of the Orbán regime is inevitable. He compared the current governmental chaos to the last days of the Gyurcsány government. But, of course, Orbán is no Gyurcsány, who, although perhaps too late, resigned. A similar move from Viktor Orbán is unimaginable.

May 3, 2017

Medián poll on Hungarian anti-Semitism

A while back Medián conducted a survey on anti-Semitism in Hungary. It just made its findings public. The document is almost forty pages long, full of tables and graphs, and defies being summarized in a few paragraphs. Here I will concentrate on a couple of areas of the study I personally found interesting and/or significant.

The research project, which is available online, was commissioned by the Tett és Védelem Alapítvány (Action and Defense Foundation), which is connected to the Egységes Magyarország Izraelita Hitközség (EMIH), itself closely linked to the Chabad-Lubavitch branch of Hasidism. The study, titled Antiszemita előítéletesség a mai magyar társadalomban (Anti-Semitic Prejudice in Present Hungarian Society), was written by Endre Hann and Dániel Róna.

What first struck me was that although 32% of the Hungarians surveyed hold strong or moderate anti-Semitic attitudes, Hungarians on the whole pay scant attention to events related to the Jewish community. Almost 70% of the people knew about the erection of the controversial monument commemorating the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, but only 5% knew anything about the issues involved. As for the size of the Hungarian Jewry, 43% of Hungarians don’t have even a rough idea of the number of people of Jewish ancestry and only 8% got the number more or less right.

Hann and Róna distinguish between cognitive and affective anti-Semitism. In the first category we find the usual assertions leveled against Jews in general. Such as the belief that there is a secret Jewish conspiracy (31%). Of those surveyed 37% think that Jewish intellectuals have a predominant position in the media and culture in general. A rather large minority (20%) think that Hungarian Jews should emigrate or that one ought to restrict the number of Jews in certain professions. That one in five Hungarians hold such extreme views is cause for alarm about the state of Hungarian society.

March of the Living 2016

March of the Living 2016

I personally think that affective anti-Semitism is more intriguing, especially since it rose significantly between 2003 and 2014. We must keep in mind that Medián has been doing surveys on the topic for a number of years. In 2003 only 9% of the population felt antipathy toward Jews. That number didn’t change until 2010, when Medián measured an almost unbelievable 28%. Since then this aversion toward Jewish Hungarians has subsided somewhat, but today it is still 23%. So, what happened in 2010? I just heard Endre Hann today on ATV’s Start where he expressed his belief that Jobbik’s spectacular success at the 2010 election had something to do with the sudden jump. He thinks that with Jobbik’s appearance in parliament this kind of anti-Semitism gained acceptance.

Hann is most likely right, but from another chart it looks as if Hungarians just don’t like “others.” It matters not whether it was in 2006 or 2014. When asked about their attitudes toward different ethnic groups Hungarians disliked all of them to a greater or lesser degree. Of course, they hate Gypsies the most, but Arabs and the Chinese are not far behind. Here the Jews actually fared relatively well. They were tolerated just a little less than Germans who settled in Hungary at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

Even more explicit were the answers to the question “Would you agree to having [a member of a group] move next door?” The most rejected are the skinheads (76%), followed by Gypsies (73%), but gays are not far behind (61%). Arabs and the Chinese are liked even less than blacks (59%), closely followed by Romanians. In case any American thinks he would be a welcome neighbor in Hungary, he is wrong. Thirty-three percent of Hungarians wouldn’t want him anywhere close. And if you think that it is better to be a Transylvanian Hungarian in Hungary you are wrong again. Thirty-seven percent of Hungarians wouldn’t want their brethren so favored by the Orbán government as their neighbors. Given the ethnic nationalist government, this is an interesting finding. In this group Jews are somewhere in the middle of the pack, being rejected by 44% of the respondents. In 2013 that figure was 38%. So, regardless of who the “others” are, xenophobia is a powerful force in Hungary, which most likely also has an impact on the extent of anti-Semitism.

Medián tried to answer the question: “Who are the anti-Semites in Hungary?” The results are surprising. The common wisdom is that anti-Semites are numerous among poorer people whose life hasn’t worked out the way they hoped. And indeed, several international surveys attest to this belief. But this isn’t true in the Hungarian context. Medián’s surveys of the last two years show no significant correlation between anti-Semitism and educational attainment or social status. In fact, when Medián distinguished between groups according to income level, the financially best-off group had the greatest number of anti-Semites. One would also think that inhabitants of villages or small towns are more prone to hold anti-Semitic views, but Medián found that there are relatively more anti-Semites in Budapest and other larger cities.

On the other hand, there is a strong correlation between authoritarian-conservative views, nationalism, homophobia and anti-Semitism, which should surprise no one. Medián distinguishes between strong anti-Semitism, moderate anti-Semitism, and freedom from such prejudice. In the population as a whole Medián found 21% strong and 11% moderate anti-Semites. The figures for Fidesz-KDNP are just a little over this average while Jobbik’s sympathizers and voters are overwhelmingly anti-Semitic. The percentage of strong anti-Semites in Jobbik is 54%; 15% are moderately anti-Semitic. This single statistic explains why Jobbik’s political leadership has been so singularly unsuccessful at transforming the party into a middle-of-the-road conservative party. Followers of parties on the left predictably scored under the national average. Nonetheless, there are a few oddities. Among Együtt-PM supporters 23% are strong anti-Semites. Among LMP sympathizers there are no strong anti-Semites but 23% are moderately anti-Semitic. The least affected party seems to be DK, with 5% strong and 10% moderate anti-Semites.

I could cover only a fraction of the study results today, but I will find time to return to the subject sometime in the future.

April 20, 2016

Hungarian public opinion on Viktor Orbán’s “war of independence”

It is an open secret that some leading European politicians worry about adopting too stringent a stance toward the Orbán government in case of a backlash. Their fear, which is fed by the Hungarian government itself, is that too sharp a condemnation of Viktor Orbán and his regime might actually strengthen the prime minister’s hand and at the same time turn the majority of the population against the European Union.

I always thought that such fears were exaggerated. Viktor Orbán has been waging a war of words against the European Union for more than three years by now and, according to the latest polls, more than 50% of the population still think that there is no life for Hungary outside of the European Union. If the hard propaganda of recent years didn’t manage to make a greater dent in the EU’s popularity in Hungary, it is unlikely that a continuation of the same will greatly change the public mood.

Now thanks to Medián, perhaps the most reliable Hungarian polling firm, we have a more detailed description of Hungarian attitudes toward Viktor Orbán’s “war of independence.” Or perhaps one should describe Orbán’s attitude toward the outside world not as a single war of independence but rather as several wars directed against different entities, the European Union being just one of them. Admittedly, perhaps it is the most important target because the Union does have the power, however limited, to have a direct say about the governance of a member country.

Endre Hann, the CEO of Medián, just released a poll taken in June that shows that only 24% of the adult population think that these wars of independence are necessary. Most likely people would find it surprising, given Jobbik’s vehemently anti-Union rhetoric, that only 26% of Jobbik voters consider a war against the Union either necessary or desirable. The majority of Fidesz voters support their leader, but 32% of them still doubt the efficacy of such a strategy. So, says Hann, it is unlikely that this latest assault on the European Union in Strasbourg will translate into more support for Viktor Orbán.

Let’s look at some details of this poll. First, Medián listed seven potential “enemies” of Hungary: the IMF, international financial circles, international credit rating agencies, the European Union, multinational companies operating in Hungary, the United States, and Germany. Among these seven the least popular is the IMF. Almost half of the population (46%) think that Hungary must defend itself from the IMF. The nearly one-year-long “peacock dance” with and against the International Monetary Fund obviously made an impression, especially since government propaganda tried to convince the population that the IMF made all sorts of demands on the country. Medián also broke the figures down further. They ascertained that among those who support Orbán’s war of independence 71% percent considered the IMF the chief enemy. International financial groups and the international credit rating institutions followed close behind. And then came the “lesser” enemies.

Who are Hungary's "enemies"?

Who are Hungary’s “enemies”?

As you can see from the first graph, 70% of Hungarians are opposed to Orbán’s war against Brussels. It is perhaps even more significant that half of those who in general support a forceful defense of Hungarian national interests think that the European Union should not be the target. When it comes to the United States and Germany, the numbers who support Orbán are insignificant.

Finally, Medián broke down the data by party preference. It was to be expected that Fidesz voters, on the whole, would support Viktor Orbán in his fight against the enemies of Hungary, but even they are not wholehearted supporters of the idea. The size of the group that has no opinion is fairly high, which might mean a degree of hesitation on their part.

Is the government's war of indepenence necessary?

Is the government’s war of independence necessary?

There is nothing surprising about the voters of MSZP, Együtt 2014, and other smaller parties (which also includes DK), but the figures for those “without party” is highly significant. It is unlikely that Fidesz could get much support from this group at election time. The percentage of those who oppose Viktor Orbán’s foreign policy–if you can call his war of independence a foreign policy– is very close to the figure for voters of the opposition parties. That doesn’t bode well for Fidesz.

In brief, this poll shows that the European Union, which has every reason to regard Viktor Orbán as a menace and a danger to the democratic governance of the European Union, should not be fainthearted. It should stand up for democratic principles and not buckle under because of a fear of adverse repercussions in Hungary. Fidesz supporters are often loud. But decibels don’t always correlate with actual strength. Over a wide range of issues there are anti-government rumblings among the large bloc of unaffiliated voters, even some among Fidesz voters. And as far as Orbán’s fight with the outside world is concerned, it has only slim support at home. In his attempt to isolate Hungary he may be isolating himself.