Reduction of overhead costs, tax benefits, the war and their love for Viktor Orban – these were the main reasons why its voters supported Fidesz, our Research Affiliate Zsolt Enyedi and Andrea Szabo write in their third article on Telex.hu, analyzing the results of a survey by Zavecz Research commissioned by the CEU Democracy Institute.
The unequal distribution of resources and the intertwining of the ruling party and the state played a major role in the outcome of the April elections, they write, adding that the landslide victory of Fidesz cannot be understood without examining the voters' motivations.
In the survey, voters were asked about their motivation in two ways: first, they received an open question, then they had to rank 15 possible reasons to vote for one party or another.
Motivation of Fidesz voters
Among the motivations of Fidesz voters, four factors of roughly equal weight stood out in the open question: tradition of voting for Fidesz (including answers such as "the whole family votes for Fidesz"), general satisfaction with the socio-political situation (love for Viktor Orban and the party, predictability, representation of national interest and the lack of a suitable political alternative), the war and economic advantage. The material aspects were mainly related to references to the reduction of overhead costs, support for families, young people and pensioners, as well as to salaries, pensions and various tax benefits.
Viktor Orban's name appeared exactly as often in negative as in positive contexts, the authors emphasize.
The analysis of the closed-response categories confirms the above formula. Material reasons, such as tax benefits, defending family policy measures and preserving the purchasing value of salaries and pensions, together accounted for the first and/or second reason of three out of four Fidesz voters. This was followed by the desire to stay out of the war, which was important for more than half of Fidesz voters. Viktor Orban's personality and "representing the interests of the Hungarian people" were also the reasons for many voters to choose Fidesz, but these criteria were far less important than the previous ones. The coronavirus epidemic that has defined the two years since 2020 was virtually absent from responses to the open question, while in the closed questions, only about five per cent chose this option.
Compared to the authors’ preliminary expectations, anti-Gyurcsany motives played a smaller role among the Fidesz voters (even though the previous Prime Minister and the leader of one of the opposition parties in the alliance was heavily targeted by the government’s campaign), and the anti-gender rhetoric was also of negligible importance.
Overall, the responses paint a picture of a Fidesz voter who sees the present as consolidated and prosperous, and who is jealously guarding its security. At the same time, this voter is not particularly values-oriented, or at least does not explain his or her political behavior in terms of ideals and values, but rather in terms of what he or she perceives as tangible government results and effective leadership.
Motivation of opposition supporters
The reasons given by the voters who supported the six-party opposition coalition in response to an open question pointed rather in one direction: to replace the Orban government and/or the Orban system. It is important to stress, the authors argue, that change was understood by many as regime change, a shift from authoritarianism to democracy, and not just a change of government.
The importance of the political logic was reinforced by references to stopping corruption (or "theft") and various democratic principles. However, while governing party voters saw their own leader in an explicitly positive light, there were hardly any opposition voters who mentioned Peter Marki-Zay when explaining their vote.
When opposition voters were asked to choose the most important and second most important reason from the 15 reasons, a slightly different picture was painted. Getting rid of the government at all costs slipped down to second place, while the fight against corruption came out on top. However, the issue of corruption did not rise to the same prominence as war or material benefits among Fidesz voters.
Political values and principles, education and health also featured strongly. Even among the opposition there were some who justified their votes by the need to stay out of the war, to represent Hungarian interests, or to preserve the value of incomes. Some of the responses obviously simply reflected the fact that opposition members also considered these to be important political considerations, but there were certainly others who seriously believed that all these goals could be better achieved by changing government, the authors explain, adding that the representation of the interests of the Hungarian people was given almost exactly the same weight in the decision-making of the two camps.
Overall there were clear traces of partisan profiles in voter motivations, Zsolt Enyedi and Andrea Szabo summarize. Not only did Fidesz and opposition voters perceive the world differently, they also used their votes for different purposes. The former reportedly saw the economy and everyday security as the stakes of the election, while the latter was driven by a desire for transparency, adherence to European values, democracy and access to quality services.
Read the full article (in Hungarian) here.
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