Is the Hungarian society anti-democratic?

2019-03-21

With partners from France, Germany, Poland, Italy and Greece, Political Capital has participated in a research project called ‘Voices on Values’, led by d|part and founded by the Open Society European Policy Institute. The project, which was based on a representative online survey and expert interviews in these countries, explored people's views on the open society and its values.

 Regarding Hungary, the key results are as follow.

 Hungarians yearn for political, economic and social stability and they also value cultural homogeneity.

  • The harsh anti-immigration stance the Hungarian government has adopted since 2015 goes a long way to explaining the population’s overwhelming hostility to refugees and migrants. But the government’s emphasis on ethnicity is not reflected in the survey responses of many Hungarians. Attitudes and positions are more subtle and complex than is generally thought.
  • Although committed to defending political, religious and minority rights, Hungarians strongly believe in majority rule, tight controls on migration and the respect of national values and norms. We found that even those who feel a strong emotional bond with the nation are divided in their attitude towards “foreigners”.
  • There are those whose patriotism is inextricably linked to xenophobia (we call them “closed patriots”) and those who reject xenophobia (“open patriots”). These two groups make up one fifth of respondents, and have fundamentally different attitudes to migration and on the values of an open society.
  • We also asked respondents if they would trade off the values of an open society for other concerns, relating, for example, to economic security or the protection of cultural traditions. Most would not swap political representation or freedom of opinion, whereas religious freedom and minority protection were willingly traded away for a variety of other concerns. These include the protection of cultural traditions and norms, the safeguarding of majority interests, measures needed to ensure that citizens do not feel like foreigners in their own country, and the ambition that everyone in Hungary should share the same cultural values.
  • People’s responses were sometimes inconsistent, revealing that they have a contradictory understanding of some practical aspects of an open society. 43 percent of those who considered it absolutely essential that the government ensures that media reporting always reflects a positive image of Hungary also thought that the media being able to criticise the government.
  • The main value, which seems to play a significant role next to political rights and democratic values appears to be the overwhelming desire for financial stability. Economic wellbeing is a major preoccupation. One third of the respondents deemed political rights less important than economic and political stability, while one third could not choose between the two types of values, and one third felt that democratic values are more important than financial stability.

You can access the report on Hungary here, while all other national reports and the overarching international reports can be found on the Voices and Values project website.

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