Tag Archives: Tárki

The anti-immigration propaganda has its limits: The latest Tárki poll

There are some days, mind you not too many, when one starts to believe that Hungary’s future is not as bleak as we are inclined to think. It looks as if Hungarians, once they’ve had time to reflect, are not so easily manipulated.

The reason for optimism is a new Tárki poll on xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment. The company has been measuring the level of anti-foreign attitudes on a yearly basis, but this year they decided to conduct a second survey after the regular April one. The sociologists wanted to measure the effect, if any, of the intense anti-immigration campaign by the Orbán government. And here is the surprise and cause for some hope: the number of those who categorically reject the acceptance of any and all immigrants has dropped from 46% to 39% in two months. At the same time, the number of those who would make their decision on an individual basis has grown from 45% to 56%. This is a surprising and very welcome development, which shows that the enormous effort and considerable amount of money the Orbán government spent on inciting hatred and xenophobia hasn’t been as effective as they expected. Like all “political products,” to use Gábor G. Fodor’s term, this particular political ploy also has its limits.

This development is especially surprising because one would assume that the arrival of thousands of refugees day after day would make a decidedly negative impression on the population. Most Hungarians know by now that the vast majority of the arrivals move on within days, but the fear lingers that one day they will be sent back to the country where they entered the European Union. And yet the outright, en bloc rejection of all migrants/refugees hasn’t spiked.

Tárki published their figures on anti-immigration sentiment between 1992 and July 2, 2015, which shows interesting fluctuations. It starts in 1992 with a low 15% of respondents who would not allow a single immigrant into the country. I assume that also included members of the Hungarian diaspora. In the first four years that number grew considerably, reaching 40% in 1995. It’s difficult to know the reasons for that steep increase. It might have been the very hard economic times that befell the country during these years; people who are poor usually don’t welcome newcomers. Also, in that period there was an influx of about 50,000 refugees from warring Yugoslav territories, which might have made a difference in public sentiment. From 1996 on, the numbers settled around 28-30%, except for the years of the first Orbán government (1998-2002). Viktor Orbán during this period was at odds with all of Hungary’s neighbors and several other countries, including the United States. His harsh rhetoric might have influenced public opinion. After 2002, the negative attitude toward immigrants subsided until 2011, when it began to climb again with the arrival of the second Orbán administration. It reached its peak at 46% in April 2014. Clearly, Orbán’s harsh anti-foreign rhetoric does make a difference, but if we can believe today’s figures, it has its limits.Tarki graphOf course, these figures are still very high. Let me give you a few figures from the United States where a 2014 poll showed that 46% of Americans thought that all immigrants should be welcomed to the United States. That’s up from 33% in 2010, 24% in 2007, and around 20% in the mid-1990s. Those who say that there should be no immigration whatsoever dropped to 19%. In May the Pew Research Center published data on the attitude toward immigration in seven European countries (France, Germany, Spain, UK, Italy, Greece, Poland) which found very little enthusiasm for increased immigration and a great deal of support for less immigration. In Greece and Italy the opposition to immigration is very high: 86% and 80% respectively.

In Hungary, the rejection of Arabs is considerable: 76% would not allow them to settle in Hungary, although those people most likely don’t know that there are already a few thousand Muslims in the country, some of whom are citizens. Mind you, other Europeans also have an unfavorable opinion of Muslim minorities, varying from country to country, but even in tolerant Germany, France, and the UK the figures are high: 33%, 27%, and 26% respectively. Tárki didn’t release figures on Africans, but I assume that their negative numbers would be even higher than those for the Arabs.

The total rejection of immigrants is highest in the regions close to the Serb-Hungarian border where the migrants enter the country and lowest along the Austro-Hungarian border.

As far as the ideological makeup of the respondents is concerned, 54% of Jobbik sympathizers would close the door to all immigrants as opposed to 39% across the board. Unfortunately, we don’t have detailed information on Fidesz supporters or followers of the democratic parties. However, the Pew Research Center’s survey shows that in all seven countries studied, people who sympathize with the right are much more inclined to reject immigrants, while liberals and socialists are the most tolerant toward immigration in general.

As expected, education is a factor when it comes to the attitude toward immigrants. Only 13% of university graduates reject all immigrants’ acceptance in the country. Their rejection is also low among those who are planning to seek work abroad or who think of emigration: 12% and 17% respectively. These people can easily see themselves being disliked and/or discriminated against abroad, and therefore they sympathize with the plight of the arriving migrants. While people on the lower rungs of the economic scale are very much against immigration (43%), people of some means are a great deal less so (15%).

I left the most puzzling finding to last. Only 17% of those who attend church every week want to banish all immigrants. This is especially strange since the so-called historical churches have done practically nothing to alleviate the hardship of these migrants. Pope Francis can talk about compassion and charity, but his words don’t seem to resonate with the Hungarian high clergy or the so-called religious charitable organizations. On the other hand, it is possible that parish priests and local ministers, in response to the influx of migrants, called attention to Jesus’s teachings on the judgment of nations. The famous passage, Matthew 25, says that the Son of Man will divide the nations into righteous and accursed ones. On his right will be the righteous ones: “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” On his left will be the accursed ones who left him hungry, thirsty and naked. They “will go away into eternal punishment” whereas the righteous will be rewarded with “eternal life.”

The growing Hungarian emigration

In the last couple of months the Hungarian media has been full not only of stories about the immigrants arriving in Hungary from the south but also about the ever-growing number of Hungarians who are packing up and leaving the country to find a better life elsewhere. Tárki, a polling company, has been following the emigration trends for a number of years, and every time they release their latest findings the headline invariably reads: “Never before have so many people considered emigration.” Tárki’s most recent results were published in May.

How many Hungarians live and work abroad? According to the last official statistics of the Central Statistical Office (KSH), their number in 2012 was 230,000. By 2013 KSH and SEEMIG (Managing Migration and Its Effects in South-East Europe) upped this number to close to 420,000. We still have no figures for 2015, but given recent trends the number of Hungarian emigrants at the moment is estimated to be somewhere between 500,000 and 800,000. In six years the rate of emigration has increased sixfold.

Tárki published a telling chart about would-be emigrants’ plans between 1993 and 2015. The chart shows that after 2010 and again after 2014 the number of people contemplating a move grew rapidly. I can’t believe that it is a coincidence that after an Fidesz victory there is a spike in the contemplated emigration rate. People could indicate several emigration plans simultaneously: short- (blue) or long-term (orange) employment, emigration on a permanent basis (grey), or all the above (yellow). In the last case the final decision would depend on the circumstances. Perhaps the most striking change happened after 2014 when those considering permanent emigration grew from 5% to 10%. In a single year. I’m almost certain that most of these people wanted to leave for political reasons, while the others are most likely “economic emigrants,” to use Viktor Orbán’s phrase.

tarki, migracio

One of the frightening aspects of Hungarian emigration statistics is the educational background of the emigrants. While only 19% of the population at home has a college or university degree, 32% of those who packed up and left were college or university educated. The reverse is true of those with only an eight-grade education. They make up 24% of the Hungarian population but only 6% of the emigrants.

Where did these 500,000-800,000 people go? Earlier most of them went to the United Kingdom, Germany, and Austria, but Hungarians are starting to discover equally inviting destinations: Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, and the Netherlands.

The Hungarian colony in London is especially large, so one of the research institutes of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences conducted a survey among them about their reasons for leaving, their satisfaction with their decision to settle in London, and finally whether they are considering returning to the country of their birth. Seventy-three percent of them said that “they have no intention of ever returning to Hungary.” Twenty-one percent answered that “perhaps within a few years” they might go back, and only 6% said that they will definitely return within a year.

János Lázár, in one of his honest moments, admitted that Hungary cannot compete with other western countries in terms of living standards and that since most of the people left Hungary for financial reasons, it is unlikely that they will abandon their well-paid jobs and return to Hungary for a great deal less money. It was therefore surprising that on April 22 the ministry of national economy launched a new program called “Come back home, young Hungarian!” The failure of this program is guaranteed. First of all, the ministry allocated only 100 million forints ($355,000), which Népszava called “laughable,” considering what the government spends on stadiums and giant posters inciting people against immigrants.

Apparently, this year the government is offering a job and a monthly stipend of 100,000 Ft for one year to 50 people. Well, at this rate, even if the program is successful, it will take a very long time to reverse the immigration trend. The government opened a website and is waiting for applicants. The problem is that government officials in charge of the program can’t agree on how many interested young, highly educated people with an excellent knowledge of English the Hungarian government is expecting. Right after launching the program, Undersecretary Sándor Czomba proudly announced that 40,000 Hungarians living abroad had registered on Facebook. Of course, this number was incorrect. Soon enough we heard that 581 people had registered for the program, and a little later it was triumphantly announced that the number had grown to 800. But this figure is misleading because the website is set up in such a way that practically no information is available without first registering.

444.hu discovered that between April 22 and June 29 only 21 people actually filled out the forms and had an interview with the organization that handles the repatriation. Today I checked the site and under “Success stories” I found a grand total of four names!

Perhaps the Hungarian government is not as eager as it pretends to be to get these expats back. A lot of people suspect that Orbán and his friends find these enterprising young men and women who are brave enough to start a new life elsewhere not especially desirable. They have lived for a number of years abroad, have learned new ways, and have most likely become critical of the oppressive presence of the Hungarian government in all facets of life.

And there might be an even more important reason why the Hungarian government doesn’t mind the large exodus that is taking place. It is the incredible amount of money that these “economic immigrants” send back home. According to a recent study, 20 million East- and Central-Europeans work in other EU countries. These migrants in 2014 sent home $28.5 billion, 10% higher than in 2013 and 31% higher than in 2012. While the average East-European migrant sent $1,700, the average Hungarian sent $5,500. This indicates to me that Hungarian expats, on the whole, have higher-paying jobs than those from other countries in the region. And if that is the case, it is unlikely that there will be great interest in the Hungarian government’s meager enticements.

BBC published a short article, “Hungary: Government seeks to lure young expats back home.” In it they report on a “counter poster” that was an answer to the government’s billboard, “If you come to Hungary you cannot take away Hungarians’ jobs.” It read: “You may safely come to Hungary, we are already working in England.”

Although the Orbán government is doing its best to turn Hungarians against the refugees who are passing through Hungary on their way to the west, Hungarians, according to the latest survey, still consider emigration a greater problem than the practically non-existent immigration.

Viktor Orbán and Fidesz are in trouble: Record loss of popularity

A few weeks ago Tárki, one of the three or four reliable opinion polls, announced a serious slide in Fidesz’s popularity. HVG introduced the news by calling it an avalanche. The poll was taken between November 13 and 23 and showed that Fidesz-KDNP had lost 12% of its sympathizers within one month. The drop was so great that I’m sure Endre Sík, the lead researcher at Tárki, must have worried whether something went wrong with their methodology. Well, he can relax. Médián came out with its latest poll, and its figures show that no party has lost as much as fast since the change of regime in 1990.

Just to give an idea of the kinds of numbers we are talking about, in a single month Fidesz lost 900,000 voters. Two-thirds of eligible voters think that the country is heading in the wrong direction. For a party that is so proud of its two-thirds majority in parliament, achieved only a few months ago, that is a devastating statistic.

Among the voting-age population Médian, just like Tárki, found that before the attempted introduction of the internet tax and everything that followed Fidesz-KDNP had a comfortable lead: 38% of the electorate would have voted for the government party. That figure by the end of November when the poll was taken had shrunk to 26%. Although 5% of those who abandoned Fidesz are still undecided, others joined some of the opposition parties. There was a 4% rise for MSZP and 2% for Jobbik.

When it comes to those who claim they would definitely vote if elections were held next Sunday, Fidesz-KDNP’s drop of popularity is even more glaring. In October 57% of those asked said that they would definitely vote for Fidesz. A month later Médián measured only 34%.

Médián collected another interesting data point. Fidesz voters’ enthusiasm for voting has waned. The party’s inability to mobilize the troops was especially noticeable in the repeated election in Budapest’s 11th electoral district where the MSZP candidate won with a very large majority. According to Médián, today only 52% of Fidesz voters say they would vote come hell or high water. This figure is significantly lower than for Jobbik (64%), DK (63%), or MSZP (59%). Another telling sign is that 22% of those who voted for Fidesz in April would not vote for the government party today, as opposed to the October figure of 4%. In October only 48% of the respondents thought that the country was heading in the wrong direction. Today that figure is 68%. When it comes to satisfaction with the performance of the government, only 31% of the voters still approve of the government, 14% less than in October.

The popularity of Fidesz politicians also dropped precipitously. The great loser was the prime minister himself who lost 16 points, followed by his closest associates: János Lázár (14 points), Antal Rogán (13 points), and Lajos Kósa (13 points). Even János Áder lost 10 points. Endre Hann of Médián noted in an interview with György Bolgár that even Ferenc Gyurcsány after the introduction of the austerity program after the 2006 election lost only 8 points. At the same time opposition politicians all gained. Not much, but a few percentage points. Viktor Orbán with his 32 points is tied with Gergely Karácsony (Együtt) and Gábor Vona (Jobbik).

Popularity of politicians: October and November

Popularity of politicians: October and November

These findings correspond with anecdotal observations. People openly criticize the government and call Fidesz politicians all sorts of names.

Viktor Orbán yesterday visited Blikk, a tabloid that the prime minister uses for his own political purposes, and agreed to answer questions from readers. Twenty-five in all. This is the second time that he participated in something called Sztárchat. As opposed to last year, this time 95% of the questions were antagonistic. The very first was a whopper from “a former Fidesz voter” who wanted to know about “the useless scrap of paper that was actually full of concrete details,” or what the prime minister thinks of Antal Rogán “conducting business with an ordinary criminal.” Someone wanted to know how it is possible that “the whole country and half the world knows what is going on here, except you. What kind of dimension do you live in that you have no idea about the real world?” Zoltán and his family wondered how “the government has money to buy banks and build stadiums and move [your office] but there is no money for hungry children, pensioners, hospitals.” He was the second person who accused the prime minister “of taking our extra money away for working on Sundays.” Someone asked why Orbán “does not dare to stand in front of people and instead tells his story in an empty studio.” There was a question about whether Orbán’s daughter is studying some manual profession in Switzerland. Sándor wanted to know when Orbán is going to resign, and “ráadás” asked him “why he thinks that the Hungarian people are so stupid” that they believe all the humbug his government feeds them.

It was, in brief, not a friendly crowd. Among the questions I found only one or two that were not antagonistic and only one that supported his anti-American policy.

His drop in the polls and the brutally honest questions addressed to him are not his only woes. Zsolt Semjén, until now a most faithful ally, decided to show his independence. He announced that as far as he knows government officials visited Germany to talk to officials there about their church law which the Hungarians allegedly want to copy. As we know, the present arrangement concerning the churches was not accepted by the European Court of Human Rights and the Hungarian government is obliged to change it. Today Semjén threatened Orbán with the KDNP caucus’s refusal to support the law once it gets to the floor.

To tell you the truth, I have been suspecting for some time that Viktor Orbán’s change of heart concerning the Sunday closing of stores might have had something to do with pressure brought to bear on him by the Christian Democrats. Perhaps Orbán thought that he could appease the KDNP caucus by supporting their proposal to shut all the stores on Sundays. Obviously, he was wrong.

There’s trouble everywhere. I wonder how he can escape from the hole he dug for himself and his government with his shoddy governance, his irresponsible foreign policy, his taxing the population to death and not producing sustainable economic growth. Hungarians are getting more and more fed up and antagonistic. If Orbán continues down the same path he has been following in the last five years, the end might not be pretty.

The current Hungarian political scene: Three polls full of question marks

It just happened that the three most important polling companies–Ipsos, Medián, and Tárki–released their findings on the popularity of the parties only a few hours from each other. Ipsos and Tárki are pretty much in sync; Medián’s findings diverge from the other two.

Medián acquired its high reputation at the time of the 2002 election, an election that MSZP-SZDSZ won by a very small margin. The loss came as an utter surprise to Viktor Orbán, especially since all other pollsters had predicted a huge Fidesz victory. Medián accurately predicted a narrow MSZP-SZDSZ win.

It may be Medián’s methodology that accounts for its different results. In an interview with Olga Kálmán on ATV yesterday Endre Hann of Medián emphasized that their numbers are arrived at after personal interviews. From this I gathered that perhaps the others contact the voters via telephone. Mind you, if that is the difference, personal interviews, given the atmosphere of fear in the country, might actually distort the findings in favor of Fidesz.  Hann himself admitted that 30% of the people selected as members of the study’s representative pool simply refused to be interviewed.

All three agree that Fidesz’s lead is large, but according to Medián it is so enormous that it is unlikely that the democratic opposition parties can catch up with the government party. In addition, Medián sees a steady growth of Fidesz support while Ipsos and Tárki see no appreciable difference between the numbers today and six or seven months ago. The third important Medián figure that differs greatly from the findings of the other two is the number of those who still don’t know which party they are going to vote for. According to Medián, only 28% of the electorate are either hiding their intentions or really have no idea what they are going to do at the next election. According to Ipsos and Tárki, this number is much higher, 43 and 42% respectively. All three, however, agree that the numbers on the left have not changed. The only shift is that MSZP and E14 have lost some potential voters to DK.

Medián’s finding that Fidesz support among the electorate as a whole is 37% is so different from the 26% and 28% of  Ipsos and Tárki that at first I thought I made a typo. However, when it comes to Fidesz support among those who claim that they will definitely vote at the next election Medián’s 52% is more in line with the figures of Ipsos (47%) and Tárki (48%), which makes the 37% even more difficult to understand.

I decided to calculate the average of the results of the three pollsters and came up with the following figures. In the electorate as a whole Fidesz leads 30.3% to 24.5% for the four democratic parties: MSZP, E14-PM, DK, and LMP. Among the active voters Fidesz support is even greater: 49% as opposed to the democratic opposition’s 33.5%. Fidesz’s followers are ready to go and vote while the sympathizers of the other four parties are a great deal less committed. Fidesz has always had a higher turnout, which is due in part to the party’s ability to organize and motivate its voters. Another party that seems to have the ability to inspire its voters is DK, which resulted in the party’s either catching up to or surpassing E14-PM, depending on the poll.

Although I always follow the polls, I’m not sure how important these findings are when 42-43% of the electorate either refuse to divulge their preference or don’t know how they will vote. Even if we add to these figures Medián’s low 28%, the average comes to 37.6%. That means at least a couple of million people. So, it is important to learn something about this group. Thanks to Ipsos’s research, we have some sense of where these people stand politically.

question mark1

Ipsos defines some subcategories within this group. One is what Ipsos calls the “active undecided.” These people claim that they will definitely vote but they don’t see any party at the moment that they could vote for. These people belong primarily to the 40 to 50 age group and live in smaller towns and villages. Fifty-eight percent of them believe that “the country is heading in the wrong direction.” Thirty-seven percent think that there should be a change of government and only 22% consider the job of the government good or excellent.

Another subcategory is “Unsure voters who can be activated.” This group makes up 9% of the electorate. Currently they say that they will probably vote but they are not absolutely sure. These people haven’t found a party they would vote for. This group consists mostly of 20- to 30-year-olds with at least a high school education. Two-thirds of them are dissatisfied with the state of affairs in Hungary and 45% would like to see Viktor Orbán and his party leave. Only 25% of them think that “the country is heading in the right direction” and a mere 17% believe that “the country is in good hands.”

The third subcategory of Ipsos is the group whose members “have a favorite party but they are passive or at least they are hesitant about their participation in the election process.” This is a large group, one-fourth of the electorate, which means 2 million voters. Ipsos believes that if this group could be mobilized they would assist Fidesz because 25% of earlier Fidesz voters are passive at the moment. Ipsos calculates 800,000 extra Fidesz voters from this group. According to their calculation, MSZP has 500,000 potential voters in this group, while E14-PM, DK and LMP could gain 100,000 voters each which, if Ipsos’s calculation is correct, means a potential 800,000 voters on the democratic side. In brief, it could be a wash if everyone in this group actually went to the polls–admittedly, an unlikely scenario.

I’ve said nothing about Jobbik, a party that cannot be ignored. Not because it has such a large share of the votes but because it must be viewed as a potential coalition partner or supporter of a Fidesz government if Orbán doesn’t manage to get a two-thirds majority. One must not discard such a possibility. Viktor Orbán is ready to do anything to remain in power. Even a huge international outcry and sanctions against Hungary wouldn’t deter him from collaborating with a neo-Nazi party. As I often say, cooperation shouldn’t be very difficult between the two parties because one doesn’t know where Fidesz ends and Jobbik begins.

The latest Medián poll: Left-liberal voters want a united front

The democratic parties got a lot of bad news today. Two polls came out, and both show a growth in the popularity of Fidesz and less dissatisfaction with the performance of the government. At the same time, support for the opposition parties is stagnant. The democratic opposition has to rethink its strategy if it is to have a chance of standing up to the Fidesz electoral onslaught we all expect. The setup that was worked out by MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM isn’t attracting voters.

The Tárki poll shows a considerable strengthening of Fidesz support. According to the poll, Fidesz has the support of 50% of active voters. That means that, given the peculiarities of the new Hungarian electoral system, if the elections were held this coming weekend Fidesz would again achieve a two-thirds majority in the new smaller (199-seat) parliament. Among the same group MSZP has the support of 20% and E14 only 6%. That means that E-14 wouldn’t even manage to get into parliament because as a “party alliance” it needs 10% of the votes to be eligible for parliamentary representation. DK has 4%, 1% shy of the necessary 5% to become a parliamentary party.

In case someone thinks that Tárki is apt to overestimate Fidesz’s strength, Medián’s poll, also released today, confirms Tárki’s findings. Based on Medián’s latest poll, Fidesz would win big at the next election. A two-thirds majority is guaranteed. Medián figures 139 parliamentary seats out of 199. According to their model, MSZP-E14 is currently running 9% behind Fidesz. They would need another 450,000 voters in order to win the election.

Medián also asked potential voters about the state of the opposition. The details of the poll are still not available, but I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of the article that will appear shortly in HVG. The title of the article is “Kétséges együttes,” a clever wordplay that is difficult to translate. In plain language, those questioned have doubts about the agreement Bajnai and Mesterházy signed.

What is it they don’t like? Almost everything. The great majority of voters who support the democratic parties are not satisfied with the MSZP-E-14 deal. They don’t like the fact that the two parties decided on separate party lists. They also dislike the arrangement whereby the two parties divided the 106 districts between themselves.

Medián conducted personal interviews with 1,200 people between September 6 and 10. Only 23% of those interviewed were completely satisfied with the arrangement while 22% were totally dissatisfied; 41% said that the agreement is good but that it could have been improved by having a common list and a common candidate for prime minister. Even supporters of E-14 are not totally satisfied, although one would have thought that they would be pleased with the agreement that greatly favors their party. Only 37% of them are totally satisfied with the agreement as opposed to 26% of MSZP supporters.

As for the person of the potential prime minister, the supporters of the democratic parties still prefer Bajnai as they did earlier, but the difference in popularity between Bajnai and Mesterházy is smaller today than it was in July.

Median gyurcsanyPerhaps the most interesting question posed in this month’s Medián poll concerned the left-liberal voters’ assessment of Ferenc Gyurcsány. The question was: “There are those who claim that for the replacement of the Orbán government every opposition force is needed including Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party, the Democratikus Koalíció. Others maintain that Ferenc Gyurcsány is so unpopular that many people would rather not vote because they wouldn’t want to vote for a political alliance in which he is included and therefore it would be better if the parties’ collaboration would exclude him. Which viewpoint do you share?”

Support for the first viewpoint is colored in orange on the chart, support for the second in blue, and “no opinion” in light orange. The first line represents the replies of MSZP voters, the second E14 voters, the third “all left-wing voters,” the fourth “without a party,” and the last those who will most likely vote but who at the moment are unsure of their party preference.

I think this poll somewhat favors DK, although some people might counter that DK’s inclusion wouldn’t garner a lot of extra votes because his support is the lowest among those without a party. But considering Medián’s finding that support for MSZP-E14 hasn’t increased since an agreement was reached between the two parties, they probably don’t have anything to lose by including DK in a joint effort. I suspect that the potential upside reward outweighs the downside risk.

And if I were Bajnai and Mesterházy I would seriously reconsider the present arrangement of having two or three party lists. The majority of their voters prefer one common list and common candidates. They could run as a coalition called, for instance, Democratic Front or Fórum. And yes, one common candidate for prime minister candidate is a must. If they are serious about removing Orbán and making an effort to restore democracy in Hungary, they must come up with a winning strategy. Truly combining their efforts in a united front is what their voters want them to do.

Electoral mathematics: The Demokratikus Koalíció’s position

Only yesterday an article appeared on Galamus by Tamás Bauer, vice-chairman of the Demokratikus Koalíció. It is well reasoned argument for why DK should be allowed to present candidates for parliament in the next election.

On the basis of past elections we know that in order to win the next election the democratic opposition needs at least 2.7 million votes.

According to opinion polls, MSZP can count on 1-1.2 million votes, which is about half of the 2.3 million the party received in 2002 and 2006. At that time the rest of the votes necessary for a win came from SZDSZ. As things stand now, Együtt-14’s voting base doesn’t exceed the number of SZDSZ voters (about 400,000) in previous elections. And that is not enough, says Bauer. The hope is that once there is an agreement among the parties about a common candidate for prime minister and a common list, people’s lethargy will be replaced by enthusiasm because then there will be some hope of removing Viktor Orbán’s government.

Mesterházy insisted that he as the chairman of MSZP, the largest party, be the next prime minister. At the same time Bajnai felt that “the two largest parties” should agree first on the fundamental questions. Bauer believes that neither position, given the current Hungarian situation, is valid. It doesn’t matter that these two parties are larger than the third; together they still cannot deliver the necessary votes. At the moment, together they don’t have as many votes as Fidesz has alone. Therefore they need every extra vote they can get, including from those who would like to see Viktor Orbán go but haven’t yet decided to vote for MSZP or E-14. As well as those who haven’t yet chosen a party. And yes, adds Bauer, they need DK’s 200,000 voters.

At this point Bauer did some calculations on the basis of the average results of three independent polling companies: Medián, Szonda, and Tárki. Bauer looked at two sets of figures: the three parties’ standing among the electorate as a whole and the figures that reflect the situation that would result if we count only those who are certain about their participation in the next election. Calculating on the basis of the whole electorate, MSZP would receive 68, Együtt-14-PM 24, and DK 8 districts. Among those who are certain at the moment about their participation, MSZP would receive 65, Együtt-14-PM 26, and DK 9 districts.

Source: The Aperiodical

Source: The Aperiodical

Thus, Bauer argues, if MSZP receives 75 districts out of which it gives up four to DK, the liberals, and the social democrats, MSZP will have 71 districts and E-14 31. (I might add here that neither the liberals nor the social democrats are measurable in nationwide polls.) Thus both MSZP and E-14 will be over-represented. This is especially true about E-14. Its voting base may be three times greater than DK’s, yet it will have eight times more districts than DK if DK accepted MSZP’s offer.

Bauer continued his calculations by trying to figure out how many seats the democratic opposition would need for a two-thirds majority or a simple majority as well as what the composition would be if they lost the election. He came to the conclusion that in all three cases, given the present support for DK, the party would be able to form its own parliamentary caucus and therefore could represent its own political ideas in parliament.

One could argue that Tamás Bauer’s argument is based on an overly static view of electoral sympathies. One cannot simply add up polling preferences and come up with a grand total. Moreover, the argument continues, it is possible that by giving DK 8 or 9 districts the democratic opposition would lose voters because of some people’s intense hatred of Ferenc Gyurcsány. These people further argue that the DK people have nowhere to go, and after all they are perhaps the most consistent critics of the present government. So, surely, they wouldn’t vote for Fidesz or boycott the election even if DK got practically nothing. Yes, this is true, but it is also true about those E-14 voters who currently swear that they wouldn’t vote for a democratic opposition in which Gyurcsány’s party is more visibly represented.

There have been polls that indicate that the supporters of the parties on the left are quite open. They don’t particularly care who the prime  minister will be, although Gordon Bajnai has more support than Mesterházy, but I don’t think that too many people would vote for Fidesz just because they don’t like Mesterházy, Bajnai, or Gyurcsány. If they do, they deserve another four years of Viktor Orbán’s exceptionally bad governance.

At the moment I’m trying find out whether there are any polls that tried to measure the loss that might be incurred by the democratic opposition were it to give a fairer share to DK in the next elections.

Another thought. Medián’s CEO, Endre Hann, called attention to the fact that although in the electorate as a whole Mesterházy and Bajnai are neck to neck in popularity, in fact Mesterházy occasionally surpasses the popularity of Bajnai. But this result is misleading because of Bajnai’s greater rejection by Fidesz voters. I wonder whether Medián ever conducted a poll that would allow us to gauge Gyurcsány’s popularity or unpopularity among those voters who will actually vote for the democratic opposition next year. Such a poll could be very useful in deciding what the best strategy would be.

In any case, tomorrow I will give a short list of DK’s positions on certain issues that are different from those of either MSZP or Együtt-14.

The latest opinion polls and the popularity of leading Hungarian politicians

Medián, one of the most reliable polling firms in Hungary, decided to expand its monthly survey on party preferences. In March its questionnaire also included questions on people’s choices for the next prime minister of Hungary. But before we get to preferences for prime minister, let’s look at the March results in general. I will compare the results of Medián, Ipsos, Tárki, and Századvég.

I would like to emphasize that under the present circumstances I don’t give much credence to the results because of the large number of people who either don’t know for whom they will vote or refuse to answer the question. Moreover, a comparison of the results shows that they are all over the map. I will give a few figures for the population as a whole because, so far ahead of the actual election, these are the most reliable or, perhaps better put, the least unreliable data.

Medián found that Fidesz, which stood at 26% in February, moved up one percentage point to 27% while MSZP showed a 3% gain during the same period, to 15%. Jobbik is at 11% while Együtt 2014-PM is at 6%, down 2% in one month. DK and LMP are each supported by 2% of the population. From these results one would predict a large Fidesz lead, but one must keep in mind that 55% of the people would like see a change of government in 2014. And 80% of the people think that Hungary is heading in the wrong direction. So the situation is less rosy for Fidesz than one might think.  In Medián’s sample 37% claimed no party preference.

Ipsos’s figures for Fidesz and MSZP were similar to those of Medián (Fidesz 24% and MSZP 16%). Jobbik has the support of 8% and Együtt 2014 5%. DK has 1% and LMP 2%. According to Ipsos, Fidesz is doing extremely well. In one month they added about half a million new supporters (a 5% gain).

Tárki came up with the most startling results. In their sample Fidesz didn’t gain at all. In fact, the party lost a few thousand votes. But the real surprise was that, according to Tárki, MSZP’s share is only 9% in the population as a whole. In just one month the party lost 3% of its voters. The rest of the parties didn’t do well either: Jobbik stands at 8%, LMP at 1%. Együtt 2014 gained voters (from 5% to 6%).

And finally here are Századvég’s results. I ought to mention that Századvég is not only a pollster but also a Fidesz political and economic think tank. Fidesz, as in the other polls, leads with 24% while MSZP is at 14%. Both Jobbik and LMP lost in comparison to the February data (Jobbik 8%, LMP 2%). Együtt 2014 has a 6% share and DK has 1%.

Illuminati Owl / flickr

by Illuminati Owl / flickr

And now let’s turn to Medián’s analysis of voter attitudes toward the leading politicians, the ones who are most often mentioned as possible candidates for the premiership. Medián was especially curious about the chances of opposition leaders against Fidesz’s candidate, who surely will be Viktor Orbán.

Medián inquired about the viability of candidates in two different questions. The first listed the following potential candidates: Viktor Orbán, Gordon Bajnai, Attila Mesterházy, Vona Gábor, and Ferenc Gyurcsány. Viktor Orbán is being supported by practically all Fidesz voters, which translates into a support of 29% among Hungarian adults over the age of 18. He was followed by Gordon Bajnai with 16% and Mesterházy and Vona, each with 9%. Ferenc Gyurcsány received 4%. However, when Medián left out Jobbik from the opposition parties the results were entirely different. Viktor Orbán would receive only 1% from voters of the democratic opposition parties, Vona received no support, but 41% of these voters found Gordon Bajnai suitable and Mesterházy was supported by only 28%. Gyurcsány received 13%.

Medián also posed another question concerning candidates’ suitability for premiership. Here the choice was only between Orbán and Bajnai on the one hand, and Orbán and Mesterházy on the other. In both cases Viktor Orbán would win, but while he would win against Bajnai with a small margin (32:28), he would do much better against Mesterházy (34:23). These figures, I should repeat, apply to adults of voting age.

If we move on to those who claim that they will definitely cast their votes at the next election, the result is even more striking. Among these people Gordon Bajnai is the clear winner; he would win over Orbán by 26:19. On the other hand, if Mesterházy were the candidate for the post, 21% would vote for Orbán and only 15% for Mesterházy. So, if we were close to the election there is no question that the democratic opposition would fare much better with Gordon Bajnai as its joint candidate than with Attila Mesterházy. This is a finding MSZP should take seriously.

For the MSZP leadership there is another warning sign from the Medián poll. Among MSZP voters only every second one (47%) finds Mesterházy the most suitable candidate to be the next prime minister of Hungary while 26% would like to see Bajnai and 14% Gyurcsány at the top of the ticket. All in all, although support for Együtt 2014 is small in comparison to that of MSZP, Bajnai’s popularity is greater than Mesterházy’s.