A few years ago, using the word “Huxit” would have been inconceivable in any context. Hungary joined the European Union on 1st May 2004 after an overwhelming 83.3 percent of voters said “yes” to accession in a 2003 referendum.
Twelve years later Hungary is set to become the first EU member state to hold a referendum on whether to respect the decision of the European Council concerning the resettlement of refugees. It seems Hungary is happy to take the EU’s money but reluctant to abide by its decisions.
A country divided
The government’s anti-EU rhetoric, a cornerstone of Fidesz`s communication strategy since returning to power in 2010, has created tensions within Hungarian society. Even though Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has expressed that leaving the EU is definitely not on the table, voices saying the opposite are getting louder.
In July, a poll by Publicus Institute showed that a large majority totally supports EU membership, with 64 percent of respondents answering that they would vote in favor of Hungary joining the EU if a referendum were to be held. Now, a month later another poll commissioned by Hungarian news website Index.hu proves that the governmental propaganda is indeed working: while a majority of Hungarians still think we should remain EU members, most of them believe this is not going to happen.
Of all the people surveyed, 68 percent would vote to remain a member in case of a referendum. On the other hand, only 46 percent think we will be members in 10 years from now.
The number of people who believe that Hungary has benefited from joining the EU is 52 percent (27 percent don’t agree, the others do not know). What is even more important is that 41 percent of Hungarians are disappointed in Brussels and 46 percent claim that they don’t see any advantage of membership in their own lives.
Those who think that the EU is a good thing listed freedom of movement and opportunities to work and study in other member states as the best advantages. Being a member of Schengen is also a good asset.
Interestingly, 56 percent of Hungarians think the EU is a good means to keep their government under control.
Who are the eurosceptics?
Even so, the anti-Brussels propaganda of the government has found a wide audience. Many agree with the anti-immigrant billboards plastered around the country and TV ads played even during the Rio Olympics. The survey showed that 58 percent of Hungarians believe the migration crisis is affecting Hungary because of the EU, and 54 percent think the EU hinders the sovereignty and traditions of Hungary.
But who are the typical Hungarians in favor and against the European Union? According to the survey, Hungarians supporting the EU are better qualified than the rest of the country and usually politically active. There is a deep division between supporters of political parties in the matter: 31 percent of far-right Jobbik supporters, 34 percent of Fidesz voters, 42 percent of socialists and 71 percent of those who vote for Democratic Coalition (Demokratikus Koalíció – DK) say they are pro-EU.
Totally eurosceptic Hungarians, on the other hand, are not very common: only 11 percent of the population thinks that being a member of the EU is an absolute mistake. Most of them are middle-aged males with poor education and they mostly live in eastern Hungary, at least according to the latest poll.