Populism in Europe: Hungary
The results of Demos’s survey (in line with traditional representative Hungarian survey data) challenges the general stereotype that simplistically depicts Jobbik supporters as the “losers of the transition”: the poor, unemployed, undereducated people. The results show Jobbik Facebook supporters are motivated in large part by a desire to protect identity, ideological and cultural considerations rather than economic ones. Therefore, the interpretation of Jobbik’s success as a mere political consequence of the economic crisis is a false simplification. The results also stress that Jobbik party should not be grouped together with other nationalist populist parties in Western Europe. While there are obvious similarities, the demographics, concerns and attitudes of Jobbik supporters — as well as the Hungarian context — differ in significant ways. The research was supported by Open Society Institute. The research paper was released at an event at the British Embassy in Budapest on 30th January 2012.
Main findings of the study
Jobbik’s Facebook fans
- Jobbik Facebook fans are predominantly young men.
- A significant proportion of them (22%) have a university or college education.
- Jobbik Facebook fans under 30 are less likely to be unemployed than the national average.
- They are keen voters and demonstrators, but not formal party members.
Social and political views
- Jobbik Facebook fans are more likely to think that violence is justified if it leads to the right outcome than Facebook fans of Western European populist parties and movements. It is important to stress that this does not imply that they are violent: more disagreed that violence was justified than agreed it was (41 per cent vs. 39 per cent).
- Jobbik Facebook fans are more likely to be negative towards the European Union than their fellow Hungarians. The most common response among Jobbik Facebook fans when asked what he EU meant to them was ‘the loss of cultural and national identity’ (68 per cent; just 5 per cent of the national population responded in this way).
- Jobbik Facebook fans are even more pessimistic about their own future and of their country than the national average.
- The integration of Roma and Crime are is Jobbik Facebook fans’ top concerns. This is a significant difference from the Facebook fans of populist parties and movements in Western Europe, for whom immigration and Islam are the top concerns.
- Jobbik online supporters have very low levels of trust in all major social and political institutions, including the government, European Union, the police, the justice or legal system and the media. Jobbik supporters have lower levels of institutional trust than either their fellow Hungarians or supporters of similar Western movements.
- At the same time, Jobbik Facebook fans have slightly higher levels of trust in others than the national average. One-quarter (26 per cent) say other people can be trusted, compared with 21 per cent nationally.
Reasons for Jobbik Facebook fans supporting the party
- The protection of identity, identification with the party’s values and disillusionment with mainstream politics were the three most common reasons respondents gave for being Facebook fans of Jobbik.
- Young supporters were more likely to cite anti-Roma and anti-Semitic sentiments as reasons for being Facebook fans of Jobbik. One-fifth (20 per cent) of 16–20-year-olds cited anti-Roma sentiments as their reason for being a Facebook fan of Jobbik compared with just 5 per cent of respondents aged over 50.
About the study
The primary data source used in the study was a survey of 2,263 Facebook fans of the Jobbik party that was conducted by Demos UK. These data were compared to the dataset of Facebook fans of populist parties and movements in 11 Western European countries and traditional representative survey data on Jobbik voters. Facebook was selected because it is the most widespread and popular social media website used by supporters of the Jobbik party. The Jobbik party has been particularly effective at mobilising young Hungarians, by using online communication and messages to amplify its message, recruit new members and organise. Indeed, the online social media following on Facebook of Jobbik is greater than its official membership list. As of January 30, 2012, the party’s official Facebook profile has almost 39 000 fans – while, according to statements of its leaders, the party has around 13 000 formal members.
Read the complete study here (pdf, 441 kB).