Tag Archives: Publicus Research Institute

The latest opinion polls on the chances of the opposition parties

First, before getting into the polls, a short “public service announcement.” Arcanum Adatbázis Kft. will hold an “open day” tomorrow (October 13). Arcanum has been digitalizing an enormous number of documents, periodicals, newspapers, and books over the past few years. A certain amount of their digitalized material is available at no cost, including such gems as Maria Theresa’s 1767 Urbarium, which genealogy buffs will find especially useful, but for full access you must pay a monthly fee. If you visit Arcanum’s table of contents (https://adtplus.arcanum.hu/hu/) you will find an amazing amount of material. So I urge everybody to make a quick trip today and look around. Tomorrow everybody will be able to browse Arcanum’s rich depository of material.

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Two new polls have been published recently. The first was conducted by Publicus Research, which was specifically interested in voters’ reaction to László Botka’s withdrawal as MSZP’s candidate for the post of prime minister. To my surprise, 43% of the respondents didn’t think that Botka’s disappearance from the scene made an appreciable difference in the electoral chances of the parties on the left. My surprise was based on the following considerations. First, those who disapproved of Botka’s handling of the negotiations with the other left-opposition parties should think that his retirement would enhance the likelihood of a united front, which, at least in theory, should boost the chances of the socialist-liberal side. On the other hand, those who saw in Botka a strong leader who could give a face to a unified opposition should be disappointed and consider the chances of the opposition diminished. Yet, it mattered not whether the respondent was a Fidesz, a Jobbik, or an MSZP voter; they all agreed that Botka’s presence in the campaign was neither here nor there. I think this outcome is a sad commentary on Botka’s eight-month non-campaign.

The amazing finding is that, despite the fact that 66% of the respondents thought that Botka’s withdrawal from the race shows the chaos that exists among the left-opposition parties, 44% still think that with hard work and readiness to compromise the left-opposition could win, as opposed to 49% who think that, no matter what, they couldn’t win. Moreover, over 60% said that Botka’s resignation was not too late; there is, they believe, still time to find a suitable and successful replacement.

As for the likelihood of victory over Fidesz at the next election, the respondents were divided, depending on party preference. Over 83% of Fidesz voters are convinced that their party will easily win next year, while MSZP voters are even more sure (89%) that there will be a change of government in 2018. Interestingly enough, Jobbik voters are much more cautious in their predictions. The majority (58%) are optimistic, but there is a large minority (42%) who fear that Fidesz will remain in power.

When Publicus Research asked the respondents about their willingness to vote for the left-opposition, there were only a couple of surprises. Clearly, Fidesz supporters are not contemplating voting for such an opposition group. However, it was somewhat of a shock that 53% of Jobbik voters would be willing to vote for the left-opposition. I suspect that the question wasn’t clear enough: “How likely would you be to vote for a left-wing joint force (együttműködés) at the 2018 election?” There is only one situation in which such a decision would make sense: if a Jobbik voter was confronted with a situation in which no Jobbik candidate was on the ballot in his electoral district.

Otherwise, Publicus, along with many other pollsters, maintains that the majority (56%) of the electorate would like to see a change of government. Over 90% of MSZP, DK, LMP, Párbeszéd, Együtt, and Jobbik voters want Viktor Orbán and his minions to be replaced, and what is encouraging is that 56% of undecided voters want the same. Considering the consensus view that undecided voters hold the key to electoral success, that level of desire for a change of government must be heartening to the opposition.

The second poll, by Medián, was released today. The data was gathered in the second half of September, before the withdrawal of László Botka. The goal was to find answers to the question of the electorate’s desire for collaboration among the opposition parties. This time only possible voters for opposition parties took part in the survey. Here again there are some surprises. Perhaps the most intriguing result is that 33% of anti-Fidesz voters claim that they prefer each party to run alone. This, given the present electoral system, would be suicidal for the opposition parties, and again I’m not sure whether the respondents really understood the question properly. They may have thought of separate party lists, especially since there was an alternative that talked about a common list that included all the opposition parties minus Jobbik. The other surprise is the relatively large number (33%) of those who want complete cooperation, which would include Jobbik. When Medián broke the answers down by party preferences, it turned out that 43% of MSZP, almost 50% of DK voters, and 34% of the undecided ones are willing to include Jobbik in a joint venture against Fidesz. Obviously, the desire to get rid of Orbán and his corrupt and undemocratic government overrides any other consideration. Although the leadership of LMP has been championing for years to face the election on its own, the party’s voters are not entirely convinced. LMP voters are almost evenly split on the issue.

Finally, let me lighten your day with a Jobbik stunt concerning the government’s campaign against George Soros. I think I wrote earlier that Bernadett Szél asked for a copy of the Soros Plan, which naturally the government was unable to provide. Jobbik did better than that. It filed charges against George Soros with Károly Papp, the chief of police. The charges are: (1) preparation for a violent change of the constitutional order, (2) conspiracy against the constitutional order, (3) destruction, (4) treason, and (5) rebellion. As support for the charges they cited claims by Bence Tuzson, undersecretary responsible for communication, György Bakondi, chief adviser on domestic security, János Halász, Fidesz spokesman, Szilárd Németh, deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on security, András Aradszki, who called Soros Satan, Gyula Budai, Fidesz member of parliament, Zoltán Kovács, government spokesman, and Csaba Fodor, managing director of Nézőpont, a Fidesz political think tank. Ádám Mirkóczki, Jobbik spokesman, said that if Soros is guilty of all the things Fidesz and government spokesmen accuse him of, he should be arrested and charged. I’m sure that Károly Papp will not find the Jobbik antic funny.

October 12, 2017

The state of media freedom in Hungary as the citizens see it

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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).

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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).

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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.

October 16, 2016

After an attack on the media, an assault on Energiaklub

Today I will report briefly on some new developments that may add to our understanding of the current political climate in Hungary.

Still about the media

To continue with the sad state of the media. The announcement that Népszava, the daily that proudly calls itself a “szociáldemokrata napilap,” was sold couldn’t have come at a worse time, only a few days after the demise of Népszabadság. The Swiss Marquard Media, which bought the paper, is no stranger to Hungary. It has been present in the Hungarian media market ever since the 1990s. Currently it owns Playboy, Runner’s World, Men’s Health, JOY, and InStyle. In Poland Marquard publishes Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and Playboy. In addition, the company owns several magazines in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Népszava will be an odd man out in Marquard’s portfolio, but we should keep in mind that in the 1990s Marquard owned Magyar Hírlap, which in those days was my very favorite Hungarian daily. At that time the editor-in-chief of Magyar Hírlap was the same Péter Németh who is heading Népszava’s editorial team today. He assures us that Jürg Marquard, whom he knows, would never in his life behave the way the private equity financier Heinrich Pecina has. Népszava had some very difficult times in the past, and one can only hope that the paper’s future will be ensured by this purchase. With the disappearance of Népszabadság, Népszava is now the only daily on the left. Mind you, when it comes to their attitudes toward the Orbán government, I see very little difference between the social democratic Népszava and the conservative Magyar Nemzet.

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Remaining with the topic of the media. The editorial board of Népszabadság made an absolutely brilliant move. The editorial team of the paper and regular outside contributors decided to write articles for the next issue of a weekly paper called Fedél Nélkül (Without Shelter), which is produced by homeless people and sold on Budapest street corners by about 1,600 of them. The journalists and contributors will take care of the added expenses, and all income from the sale of the papers will go to the licensed distributors of Fedél Nélkül.

There is a new enemy: The Energiaklub

Energiaklub is a well-established NGO concerned with environmental issues and alternative energy sources. It is a fierce opponent of building a new nuclear power plant in Paks. On September 29, 2016, the Baranya Megyei Kormányhivatal, a regional administrative arm of the government, accepted Paks II’s version of the environmental safety of the project. However, some key issues concerning the project are still questionable, and some of the government’s safety claims have no basis in fact. This is at least what Energiaklub and Greenpeace claim. These two organization will appeal the decision. Energiaklub’s experts “are convinced that Paks II will be a polluter” and that “it is dangerous and expensive.” In their opinion, “both in economic and social terms the expansion of nuclear energy is a dead end.”

On October 13 representatives of the National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) appeared at the offices of Energiaklub. Without much ado or explanation they packed up all documents related to one of Energiaklub’s projects called “Answer to climate change, local climate adaptation.” The leadership of the organization is convinced that “this is the second act of the Norwegian affair” because this particular project is funded by Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein. Orsolya Fülöp, policy director of Energiaklub, believes that NAV’s unexpected visit is not so much against Energiaklub as against Norway.

I, as an outsider, see it differently. I see a connection between Energiaklub’s decision to appeal the verdict of the Baranya Megyei Kormányhivatal on the environmental safety of Paks II and NAV’s sudden interest in one of the organization’s projects. Moreover, the appeal was not the Energiaklub’s only “sin.” They have been calling attention to the corruption that surrounds the Paks II project. According to one of the organization’s energy experts, at least 10% of the projected €12 billion will end up in private pockets. My guess is that the Orbán government had enough of this pesky organization’s criticism of the prime minister’s pet project. Or perhaps they are planning to kill two birds with one stone.

Hungarians and freedom of the press

The Publicus Research Institute came out with a poll* conducted between October 11 and 13 which asked 1,000 people about their attitude toward freedom of the media and the suspension of the publication of Népszabadság. The results are surprising. Almost 90% of the Hungarians surveyed consider the existence of an independent press very important and 85% had heard about the suspension of Népszabadság. Two-thirds of the people think that Fidesz has a substantial influence on the media. Moreover, they said that since the collapse of the Kádár regime, government power over the press has never been stronger.

Another surprise is that 43% of the adult population read Népszabadság more or less regularly. Even 37% of Fidesz voters did so. Naturally, MSZP voters were the most faithful readers of the paper (57%), but Jobbik voters were not far behind (47%). Another interesting finding is that more readers were between the ages of 18 and 44 than over 45.

The great majority of the people are convinced that Népszabadság had to be silenced because it criticized the government and Fidesz politicians, or because Fidesz limits the freedom of the press in general, or because it was an opposition paper. Only 22% believe that the reason for the shuttering was financial. So, there is hope.

*The poll was taken for Vasárnapi Hírek. The detailed results can be found on the website of the Publicus Research Institute.

October 15, 2016