Skip to main content

Julia Sonnevend on Politicians’ Charm

In the 20th century, politicians’ charm was based on distance, while today, they are trying to construct an image of being “one of us,” our Research Affiliate Julia Sonnevend said as the guest in Friderikusz Podcast, a Hungarian show.

The wide-ranging interview covers her background, education, family life as well as her research. Among other things, she talks about why fact-checking is often ineffective, the differences between the Hungarian and American media, and why the illiberal leaders in the world appear similar in spite of the fundamental differences in their background and environment.

Discussing her forthcoming book, she talks at length about Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s charm. She argues that politicians, whether populist or not, are increasingly using the tool of portraying themselves as “one of us;” political communication is becoming similar globally. She argues that the importance of personality often exceeds that of policies and institutions.

Talking about Orban’s Facebook page, she says he communicates that he represents the nation: He does not post about policies but about “Hungarian things” such as going to a pig-slaughter or eating traditional Hungarian food. Through his messages, he subtly communicates who belongs to the nation. She thinks that Orban’s messages are based on very thorough polling, which measures not only voters’ political preferences but also fears, attitudes and even preferred terms and phrases, with "war inflation" being the latest example.

She also talks about the image of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, former US President Donald Trump, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Watch the video (in Hungarian, with English subtitles):

Video URL
Research areas: