According to the latest poll (Szonda Ipsos) on party preferences Jobbik, which in earlier polls had lost some of its appeal since the last national elections in April 2010, regained its former strength by July 2011. To give an idea of the relative strength of Jobbik here are some numbers. Fidesz is being supported by 22% of the population eligible to vote, which means 1.8 million voters, while MSZP's supporters constitute 14% of the population with 1.1 million votes. Jobbik has more than 600,000 potential voters.
Who are these people and why are they attracted to an extreme right-wing party? In the media one can read opinion pieces which claim that the leaders of Jobbik, an insignificant party even as late as 2006, discovered that capitalizing on the anti-Roma sentiments of Hungarians was a winning political card. However, András Tóth, a researcher at the Political Science Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, together with István Grajczjár, who teaches sociology at the King Sigismund College (Zsigmond Király Főiskola), came to the conclusion that the Gypsy issue was merely one of several components in the rise of Jobbik.
Hungarian society is a good breeding ground for extreme right-wing movements. On the basis of research conducted in 2003 Tóth and Grajczjár concluded that one-fourth of both Fidesz and MSZP and two-fifths of SZDSZ voters harbored attitudes that can be found in the ideology of the extreme right. For example: nationalism (10%), xenophobia (18%), superiority complex (20%), undue respect for authority (28%), and political disillusionment (36%).
Just to give an idea of the rapid growth of Jobbik, in 2006 Jobbik allied with István Csurka's MIÉP received only 2% of the votes. Four years later, leaving MIÉP behind, it received 16% of the votes. The troubles of the MSZP-SZDSZ coalition and the subsequent economic crisis certainly played a significant role in the growth of the party, but Gábor Vona's ability to reorganize and reenergize the party after the fiasco of 2006 was also important.
According to the research of Tóth and Grajczjár, Jobbik supporters/voters are the most pessimistic group in the country. They don't see any change for the better in their own lives or in that of the country. They are dissatisfied with the workings of the democratic institutions and they don't consider the existence of free elections a guarantee that parliamentary members will represent the will of the people. Altogether Jobbik voters don't trust people in general. They find any kind of reverse discrimination distasteful. They are the most xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Roma group in the population. They are suspicious of parties in general and believe that what the country needs are a few brave, hard-working, and committed leaders. Nationalism is widespread in Hungary, but the romantic type of nationalism and the devotion to tradition is strongest among Jobbik voters.
So, where did the Jobbik voters in 2010 come from? Fifty-one percent of Jobbik voters four years earlier still voted for Fidesz. Nineteen percent of their numbers had voted for Jobbik-MIÉP earlier. And one-third came from MSZP. Jobbik voters are young and overwhelmingly male (63%). A large majority of Jobbik sympathizers are students, young unemployed people, and workers. Yet most of them describe themselves as middle class. This dichotomy may give rise to frustration. Supporters of Jobbik seem to be people who feel that society has treated them unjustly, that they haven't received the recognition they deserve.
The description of the Jobbik sympathizers as an unusually pessimistic lot is worrisome. It is a well known fact that Hungarians as a whole are a pessimistic people. According to a very recent survey done by GfK Roper Consulting (Mood of the World 2011) Hungary still leads the pack of pessimists. Roper Consulting conducted the survey in 25 countries with the participation of 37,000 people. The result is staggering. Forty-two percent of Hungarians don't believe that their financial situation will be better a year from now. The average is 10 percent, but in countries of the region the percentage of pessimists is way below that of Hungary. In the Czech Republic 14% and in Poland 16%. There are some optimistic people in Hungary (26% of the population), but the average of the 25 countries is 60%.
I am wondering about the connection between the infamous Hungarian pessimism and the possible growth of Jobbik in times of economic difficulties. The same sociologists mentioned elsewhere the possibility of Jobbik getting 30% of the votes in 2014. The next elections are still far away and a lot of things can happen. The democratic opposition might pull itself together, and the economy might also improve. Let's not be too pessimistic.