Hungarian Liberal voters in 2012

The regularly conducted monthly opinion typically provide information such as power relations between parties but they rarely reveal anything about how the voters’ behaviour, values and attitudes have changed. Thus, in our newest analysis Republikon Institute’s main goal is to give an insight in deeper contexts, leaving party preferences on the sidelines. Our goal is to find out whether there are any liberal voters left in Hungary – whether the claim often made by liberal intellectuals that around 15-20 percent of the Hungarian population is liberal is valid – or whether liberal voters have vanished.

  1. 1.        Who are the liberal voters?

When identifying liberals we can follow two paths: firstly, one can be characterized as liberal based on self-declaration. Second of all, respondents can be grouped under specific policy issues and value choices. Since the latter method is very subjective, we have decided to use the first method: we therefore base our analysis on liberal self-affiliation.

In a survey research – conducted in January-February 2012, on a representative sample of 3000 voters – we included two question concerning ideological self-affiliation. First of all respondents had to determine which ideological label – out of 7 – fits them most. In another question, they had to position themselves on a seven-point liberal-conservative scale. In the first question, 12 percent of the respondents chose the liberal label, while in the other question, 14 percent of voters could be classified liberal. Aggregating the results of these two questions, we could identify two classes of liberals: uncertain liberals are the voters who have chosen the liberal label, but have not chosen a “strong” liberal affiliation on the liberal-conservative scale. , These voters consider themselves liberals, but their political preferences, and even their participation in elections is uncertain.

  • committed liberals are the voters who, besides identifying with the liberal label gave a score of 1 or 2 on the liberal-conservative scale (1 being the most liberal).

The data show that the voting age population includes four percent committed liberal, while eight per cent uncertain liberal among voters.

  1. 2.     The liberal voters

The second part of the analysis deals with the socio-demographic distribution of liberal voters, considering four questions: the liberal voter’s age, educational level, income and residence type. The research clearly shows that the liberal voters are younger than other voters, thirty percent of the committed liberals are under the age of thirty, while the same rate among uncertain liberals is almost forty percent. The elderly are seldom found among them.

Additionally, liberals have higher education level, their income/salary is far higher that of other voters.

Twice as many committed liberals have graduated from secondary school than non-liberals. Committed liberals are strong in the capital: one-third of these voters are from Budapest, compared to the national average of 20% which. On the other hand uncertain liberals are roughly evenly distributed in the various settlements.

  1. 3.      Policy preferences

Republikon Institute’s study showed that the traditional liberal position appeared much less often than as it was expected – even among committed liberals Even among those liberals who have displayed the most characteristic preferences, those ones who chose the truly market-oriented solutions were consistently in the minority- whether is the questions concerned foreign capital, tuition charges or allowing social income differences.

Furthermore, liberal voters’ stance on cultural issues is inconclusive. In cultural issues, the fault line returns between the liberal and non-liberal voters: two-third of the former believe the government should stay away from the churches.

Thus, while it can be clearly seen that self-identified liberal voters truly have a somehow more liberal standpoint than the rest of the population – more so in cultural, than in economic matters – these differences are relative. The self-identified liberals are more tolerant than the population – “only” around 60 percent of them, for instance, have discriminatory views concerning the Roma population, as opposed to the national average of 80 percent, but the difference only goes so far.

  1. 4.      The liberal voters’ political preference

By examining the recollection of voters concerning their choices in 2006 and 2010, it is relatively easy to reconstruct their party political affiliation. While some of this data is obviously biased towards the winner, it is nonetheless clear that in 2006 most of both liberal groups voted for Fidesz. All this happened despite the fact that at time SZDSZ, the Liberal Party was one of the contestants. Only about one-fifth of present-day committed liberals confess voting for the self-proclaimed liberal party. The reason for this is that most of the liberal voters – like other voters – base their votes not on ideological preference but on other, more politics-centred issues like government competence or their first choice of prime minister. In 2010 liberal voters could choose from two new parties, SZDSZ was no longer one of them.

At the election in 2010, liberal voters chose Fidesz with high percentages again. Some liberal voters (6-8 percent) even ended up with Jobbik in 2010.

However, LMP – the new greenish-liberal formation – has benefited most from the liberal voters; in both liberal groups the support of LMP was many times higher than the national average. Thus, proportionally, most liberal voters mostly found their political home at LMP.

Liberal voters now, just like in 2006 and 2010, form a divided camp: if the elections were held today, the relative majority of liberals would choose Fidesz. However, the situation of LMP is unchanged; they are the most still the most overrepresented party among liberal votes: 3 percent of the non-liberals, 7 percent of the uncertain liberals and 10 percent of the committed liberals would choose them.

If the elections were held today, committed liberals would be the most active voters: 56 percent would participate in the elections for sure – it’s about ten percent higher than non-liberal voters voting intention.

When we asked respondents to name what government would they obviously like to see at the head of Hungary on the next election, most people in either liberal groups answered they would like to have a left-wing coalition government. 40 percent of the committed liberals and 35 percent of the uncertain liberals would be glad to see a government with the members of MSZP, LMP or even DK (leaded by the former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány). Moreover liberal voters would not only like to have such a government in theory, but would also vote for a joint left-green candidate.

In conclusion, the politically liberal community is a highly heterogeneous group. Liberal voters can be found among supporters of all current political parties – including the Jobbik as well. Most of these liberals would choose Fidesz if the elections were held today, but they provide the biggest help to LMP. Although the most popular party among them is Fidesz, liberal voters would prefer a left-wing coalition government after 2014: To this end, a joint opposition candidate would have the support of the relative majority of liberals against the ruling party.

Republikon Institute