Opinion: Views on the Second Debate of Prime Ministerial Candidates

  • 27 Sep 2021 3:10 PM
  • Hungarian Spectrum
Opinion: Views on the Second Debate of Prime Ministerial Candidates
Although I had the chance to watch the second debate in its entirety today, I would rather summarize the results of Tibor Závecz of Závecz Research and András Pulai of Publicus Intézet on the public reaction to the candidates.

The former was commissioned by RTL Klub, the television station that hosted the debate; the latter, by Népszava. The results of the two polls are sufficiently close that one feels relatively safe in judging them trustworthy.

Závecz Research’s poll was conducted via a telephone survey of 1,040 respondents, using a sample representative of the debate’s viewers.

The survey asked three questions. The first inquired about their willingness to participate in the primaries, while the second and third asked about their opinion of the outcome of the debate. The great majority of the respondents (63%) had already voted, 29% are planning to vote, and only a tiny minority (5%) will not take advantage of the opportunity.

The second question centered on the credibility of the candidates. The highest percentage of the respondents (30%) found Klára Dobrev the winner in this category, followed by Gergely Karácsony with 25%, Péter Márki-Zay with 22%, Péter Jakab with 10%, and András Fekete-Győr with 7%.

The third question inquired about the overall winner of the debate. Once again Klára Dobrev was on top with 31%, followed by Gergely Karácsony (24%), Péter Márki-Zay (18%), Péter Jakab (11%), and András Fekete-Győr (4%). Twelve percent of the participants didn’t answer this last question.

Publicus Intézet used a representative sample of 1,198 people who watched either in full or in part the second debate. Its questions addressed three perceived characteristics of the candidates: personal sympathy, persuasiveness, and eligibility. In the Publicus survey, in all three categories Gergely Karácsony was ahead of Klára Dobrev by two or three percentage points. Péter Márki-Zay secured a solid third place in all three categories.

I would like to call attention to one interesting aspect of this survey. Publicus, in addition to giving detailed data according to party preferences, also asked the opinions of those who are still undecided. The outcomes confirmed my suspicion that, for undecided voters, Karácsony and Dobrev are almost equally acceptable.

The differences amount to only a few percentage points. However, when Publicus asked the participants to offer an opinion on “who can best appeal to today’s undecided voters,” the gap between the two was much greater (35% to 22%), in Karácsony’s favor.

In addition to the graphs that appeared in Népszava, András Pulai, the strategic director of Publicus, expressed his personal reaction to the candidates and the debate in general to Index. I think he correctly pointed out that, while the first debate was supposed to prove that these five politicians would be able to work together, this time they had to showcase their differences and their special appeal.

He briefly stated his personal opinion on each candidate, but at the end he summarized his overall take on what is ahead. He believes that there are only two real races, for the first and the third place. He thinks that Jakab and Márki-Zay are competing for the third position, while Gergely Karácsony and Klára Dobrev are in the running for the winning slot.

Then there is always an outlier. Alfahír, the official site of Jobbik, reported the results of PegaPoll, a polling company I have never heard of. It claims that, on the basis of almost 20,000 answers, the race between Péter Jakab and Klára Dobrev is a dead heat.

When a day later Závecz Research published its findings, an Alfahír article questioned the results and accused the company of “wanting to produce results.” It contended that the “pre-selected 1,040 respondents were over-represented by committed DK voters.”

It’s of course not a uniquely Hungarian phenomenon that there is always someone who has to offer an outlier opinion. But in Hungary, one can always count on Róbert Puzsér, “anchorman, editor, and social critic,” as Wikipedia introduces him. 

He said, “I don’t intend to go into why RTL’s public debate, intended as a pre-election debate, was so boring. It was clear that only Gergely Karácsony and Klára Dobrev have real ambitions to become prime minister, while Péter Márki-Zay, András Fekete-Győr, and Péter Jakab are ready to become ministers in either the Karácsony or the Dobrev government. They are looking forward to a respectable defeat.”

I beg to differ. It wasn’t boring. Just the opposite. There were a few sharp exchanges and comments that may make a difference in the final outcome.

Moreover, Puzsér is dead wrong when he claims that Márki-Zay and Jakab are just waiting for the opportunity to bow out of the race. In fact, Márki-Zay is especially convinced of his suitability for the job.

The question is whether he will be a gracious loser and support the joint cause, whoever is at the top of the ticket.

This opinion does not necessarily represent the views of XpatLoop.com or the publisher.

Your opinions are welcome too - for editorial review before possible publication online. 

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Hungarian Spectrum

Hungarian Spectrum features analyses in English about Hungarian political, economic, and cultural news. Its editor and primary pundit is Eva S. Balogh, who formerly taught East European history at Yale University. Guest contributors include Hungarian and international professors, experts and researchers of sociology, international affairs, and political science. The site, which is archived at the Library of Congress, is recognized by diplomats, journalists, scholars, and representatives of non-governmental organizations as a source of thoughtful analysis and high-level discussion of contemporary Hungarian affairs.

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