Voices of Central and Eastern Europe - Hungarian Country Report

2020-11-02

Political Capital, in partnership with the Slovak think tank Globsec, analyzed the results of a public opinion poll encompassing Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Political Capital’s Hungary-focused country report gives insight into how Hungarians evaluate the functioning of their democracy, locals’ satisfaction with governance and their predisposition towards conspiracy theories and misinformation.

They key country-specific findings reveal that:

  • Hungarians overwhelmingly prefer liberal democracy with regular elections and a multiparty system over one premised on a strong leader who does not have to face elections. A total of 45% of respondents, comprised primarily of supporters of the ruling political parties, are indeed satisfied with how democracy works in the country. But there are, nevertheless, some nuances recorded within this overall sentiment. Around one-third of Hungarians, for example, are willing to exchange their freedoms for improvements to enhance their finances, security, and/or the protection of traditional values. And only 31% of respondents say their needs are taken into account by the political system, with 55% saying nothing will change regardless of the party in power.
  • Hungarians tend to especially trust formally independent institutions like the presidency, the police, the armed forces, and the courts and judiciary, according to the survey. With the exception of its own supporters, the government, meanwhile, is strongly distrusted. All political parties are, in fact, distrusted nearly universally.
  • Respondents are generally satisfied with their lives and social standing but rather dissatisfied with their own financial situation. Fidesz supporters are the only political subgroup expressing general satisfaction with personal finances and where a plurality (41%) of respondents believe that everyone has a chance to succeed in the country. Significant numbers, 69% and 49%, of Hungarians, respectively, hold the view, meanwhile, that the wealthy and those from the capital are given preferential treatment in society.
  • A total of 46% of respondents judged the media in the country to be free or rather free, with 49% disagreeing, and 44% express trust in the mainstream media. Supporters of Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) are considerably more likely to believe that Hungarian media is free and put more trust in the standard mainstream media. This is likely the effect of the government’s efforts to place numerous mainstream organs (e.g. the public broadcaster, Origo, etc...) under its direct or indirect control.
  • A majority of respondents consider migrants to be a threat to their identity and values. This same sentiment is not expressed towards the US, the EU, western societies, or the LGBTI community though.
  • There is a sizeable contingent of Hungarian citizens who are susceptible to conspiracy theories but there is a substantial variation in predispositions depending on the specific conspiracy concerned. While 49% think that the Jews have too much power and that recent anti-government protests were orchestrated and financed by George Soros, only 24% believe that the attack on the World Trade Center was planned by the US government. Narratives pushed by the government (e.g. Soros-financed protests, the EU dictating policies to Hungary) are widely accepted by Fidesz supporters, with the same group also among those most likely to believe that Jews have too much power. Those who have attained higher levels of education, especially a university degree, are less prone to believing conspiracy theories. The differences in conspiracy buy-in, in fact, between most and least educated respondents are, in some cases, higher than 20 percentage points.
  • The data is indicative of significant divides within Hungarian society. Political party preferences, for example, are prescient of the degree of trust placed in numerous institutions (e.g. the government and mainstream media), receptivity to conspiracy theories, and/or satisfaction with the operation of democracy in the country. An urban-rural chasm is also discernible on a variety of issues including assessments of democracy, media freedom, and threat perception.

You can find the full English-language report here, and a short factsheet summarizing results here. The Hungarian-language study can be reached here, and the Hungarian factsheet is available here.

 See the summary of our findings in the video below:

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