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Hungarian Voters Don’t Sympathize With Russia, nor With Ukraine, but They Like the EU

In Hungary, the more right-wing someone is, the more likely they are to sympathize with Russia, our Research Affiliate Zsolt Enyedi and Andrea Szabo write in their second article on, analyzing the results of a survey by Zavecz Research commissioned by the CEU Democracy Institute.

“How sympathetic are you to the policies of the following states and organizations?”, the survey asked with the following results: In the total population, the European Union came out first, with Germany, Poland and the United States being in the middle, and with Israel, Ukraine and Russia in the bottom. In other words, there is relative pro-Europeanism in the public opinion, without any sign of enthusiasm.

Both Fidesz and opposition supporters ranked the EU first. This is somewhat surprising seeing the bickering between the government and the EU, but the interpretation must also take into account the trivial fact that Hungary is part of the alliance. There was also a convergence of camps in placing Israel, Ukraine and Russia at the bottom of the seven listed countries. This means that the strong pro-Ukraine stance of the opposition parties was only marginally shared by their voters.

The authors also examined how country sympathies are related to one of the more important aspects of party choice, the desire to "stay out" of the Russian-Ukrainian war. In the form of a closed question, the respondents were offered 15 aspects that could have played a role in the electoral decisions in April.

The war was the first or second most important aspect mentioned by 41% of respondents. Somewhat surprisingly, there was no difference in the perception of Ukraine among those whose voting preference was influenced by the war. However, there was a significant difference for the EU, the US and Russia. Those whose because of their preference to stay out of the war were more sympathetic to Russia than the others, and more negative towards the EU and America.

It is unlikely that the war alone would have made them more sympathetic to Russia and more antipathetic to the EU and the US. It is somewhat more likely that, on the one hand, anti-Russian and pro-Western opposition supporters may have thought that the threat of getting involved in the war was false, while the anti-Western and pro-Russian Fidesz supporters may have seen the opt-out narrative a good framework to interpret their party choice.

The degree of politicization of foreign policy orientations is also indicated by the correlation with left-right identification. The more right-wing someone is, the more negatively they view the EU, America, Germany and, to a lesser extent but still statistically significant, Israel. On the other hand, the more positive their opinion is on Russia.

While this is not an unexpected pattern, it is worth noting that it is the exact opposite of the traditional pattern observed in most Western and Eastern European countries. The data suggest that this is a purely "political product" in the sense that attitudes towards a country have nothing to do with education, age or class. However, it does not necessarily mean that we are talking about unstable orientations that can be "reprogrammed" at any time, Zsolt Enyedi and Andrea Szabo argue.

Read the full article in Hungarian here, in English here.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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