In April 2010 the Fidesz-KDNP party alliance has gained two-thirds of the votes at the election and they have formed a government. Nowadays the support of Fidesz and the Orbán-cabinet has reached its decennial lowest point; only the Gyurcsány-cabinet suffered such a decline a good one and a half years after the elections in 2006. The extent of the popularity decline might cause a debate, but the trend is beyond dispute: more and more voters turn away from the governing parties.
At the beginning of 2012 Fidesz had to face thousands of civilians in a plenty of civil initiatives and even declining public-opinion polls statistics. In narrow two years after the elections in 2010, the opposition parties were not capable of strengthening themselves, and the proportion of the uncertain voters is still high: therefore Fidesz still has the first place among certain voters. These results might be enough for some to hide the fact that the total voting age population has turned its back to the government to a dramatic extent. Back in the summer of 2010, the support rate was close to 50 percent; nowadays it hardly reaches the one-fifth of total voting age population which means approximately 1.600.000 citizens at the moment. The extent of the popularity decline might cause a debate, but the trend is beyond dispute: more and more voters turn away from the governing parties.
In this article therefore we review the following questions: How serious is the current government’s popularity decline? How do the present-day results relate to the former government’s periodical performance? Our analysis compares the indicators of popularity and their evolution of the former governments and those of their leading parties between 1998 and 2010. Only results for the full voting age population were used in our work, since these numbers are suitable for making society-wide statements.
The support of Fidesz compared to their own former and that of former winning parties’ and governments
In 2010 Fidesz off-handed the elections, but during the last twenty-two months it has lost nearly 60 percent of its voters. The Ipsos and TÁRKI measurements essentially led us to the same conclusion: the current ruling party has had so few voters last in January 2001; since more than a decade neither of the institutions has measured such low support: less than one-fifth of the full population would vote for Fidesz. Fidesz’s current public-opinion polls practically speaking has reached the lowest result of the first Orbán-government, although in 2010 it started with a much higher level than at the first governing period, in 1998. The support of Fidesz has come to its lowest point in the past eleven years.
We can’t ignore the fact that the popularity of the parties winning the past four elections has had two paths to go: after longer or shorter periods of upsurge in the beginning a continuous decline, or quick drop at the very start, then after a short (back)strengthening also a slow but steady decline characterized their journey. Almost two years after winning the elections the actually governing Fidesz is just as unpopular as each leader government parties were following their victory. Because in 2010 it began from a much higher level, therefore the loss of popularity is very remarkable.
The difference becomes even more visible when we analyze the full support of the governments instead of the parties. On this base we can make the following conclusion: the second Orbán-cabinet became the second most unpopular government by the end of the year after the election, although it started with the highest support ever. Practically speaking it’s only a little more popular than the former MSZP-SZDSZ-cabinet, led by Ferenc Gyurcsány at the turn of 2007-2008.
However it is important to note: in comparison to the former four governments the first Orbán-cabinets support was relatively high due to the results of the coalition parties. While between 1998 and 2006, the coalition partners have always contributed to a higher social-support of the actual government, but after the one-party Fidesz victory in 2010 there were no such usable reserves left.
The extent of the popularity decline and prime minister’s popularity
Beside the support, popularity is another important aspect in the analysis. First of all we examine the question from the aspect of the government parties, and then we change our focus to a smaller section: the aspect of the prime minister’s. The four governments suffered from different levels of popularity loss after the period of becoming a governing force.
The data suggests (percentage point decrease in government support in the first post-election poll results, and results in the following twenty-two months), that the Gyurcsány-government in 2006 and Orbán’s government in 2010 had to face far greater loss than the governments did in 2002 or in 1998. The Orbán-government started from a higher initial but has actually caught up with its predecessor, so the decline in the rate of the second Orbán-government is three percentage points ahead of the Gyurcsány-government (which means 21.5 percentage points less). Therefore it can be said that the Fidesz-KDNP government has suffered an unprecedented level of popularity loss in good one and a half years.
Besides the support of the parties, people’s opinion about the Prime Ministers also considered to be an important feature of a government’s support. From the data the difference stands out between the first Orbán- and the Medgyessy-government, and the Gyurcsány- and the second Orbán-government: the former pair had a relatively high popularity, 50-51% of the voters would have still liked to see them in an important political role. In contrast, Viktor Orbán’s results in 2011, and Ferenc Gyurcsány’s results in the end of 2007 are far behind the popularity of their predecessors. To sum up: Viktor Orbán had the largest drop: the current period’s popularity has declined by 45%, it’s even bigger than Ferenc Gyurcsány’s one-third of reduction.
Based on the data considering all aspects, the following conclusions were determined: by the beginning of 2012, Fidesz has shown dramatic popularity decline, which also means that it’s on the deepest point of support in the past eleven years. Although the current party’s results now seems to be less low, but we must admit that the deterioration of Fidesz and the Orbán-government’s assessment has matured the loss of popularity that only could be seen at the period of Gyurcsány-government. It also can be seen at the level of politicians: Viktor Orbán’s personal popularity declined more between May 2010 and February 2012, than Ferenc Gyurcsány’s personal popularity declined between the same period of 2006 and 2008. Most importantly, however, the low popularity of Fidesz is still masked by the fact that the support of the opposition parties still has not moved from the level of the 2010 elections. At the same time, the ratio of uncertain voters reached historical heights.