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Treatment of Minorities

Treatment of Minorities The most important problems facing Hungary. Interview Standard Eurobarometer 83, May 2015

The majority of the Hungarian public have traditionally negative attitudes towards foreigners and certain ethnic groups. Prejudice is the strongest against the Roma, and its prevalence has been remarkably stable in the past two decades. According to the latest extensive poll conducted in 2011, 82 percent of the Hungarian population thought that “the problems of the Roma would be solved if they started to work at last”, 60 percent agreed with the statement that “the inclination to criminality is in the blood of Gypsies”, and 42 percent considered that “it is only right that there are still pubs, clubs and discos where Gypsies are not let in”.

According to a research conducted by Hungarian polling institute Tárki every year since 1992, openly-admitted xenophobia reached a record high in April 2015. At that time 46 percent of the adult population said that asylum seekers should not be allowed to enter Hungary. The rate of those who think that asylum seekers should be admitted or rejected depending on the merits of the case was 45 percent. Only 9 percent of the respondents said that all asylum seekers should be admitted unconditionally. The highest level so far was reported back in 2001 when 43 percent of the respondents were considered xenophobic. In 2012 the ratio of xenophobes started to rise and in 2013 and 2014 the ratio was higher than the average of the 2000s. The highest rejection rate was recorded against Arabs, at 94 percent, followed closely by the Roma minority, the Chinese, Africans and Romanians. The lowest rate of rejection measured was against Hungarians from the neighbouring countries, only 7 percent of the sample rejected them. The survey also measures the negative sentiments against Pirezians, a fictional ethnic group invented by Tárki. The high rejection rate of Pirezians (around 60 percent) shows the general negative attitude of Hungarians towards foreigners.

According to Political Capital Institute’s Demand for Right-Wing Extremism (DEREX) Index, the ratio of xenophobic voters in Hungary is remarkably high even in regional comparison.

However, looking at other member states, a 13 percent rate of mentions falls short of a 23 percent average measured in the EU. Moreover, in 12 member states at the national level immigration was deemed to be a greater problem than in Hungary. In other words, the Hungarian data was squarely in the middle of the field. However, Hungarians considered the issue of immigration to be a much larger problem at the European Union level than at the national level. 43 percent believed that migration is one of the two most urgent issues the EU is facing. Even though there is a general tendency among EU member states that immigration is considered to be a more serious problem at the EU level than at the national level, the 30 percentage point difference between opinions regarding the importance of immigration at the national and the EU level in Hungary is significantly high within the EU (it is the second largest gap after Slovakia where the discrepancy is 31 percent). In other words, in May 2015 Hungarians believed that immigration was truly urgent and had to be resolved within the EU, while in Hungary other burning issues should have been on the top of the agenda. According to the survey, 7 out of 10 people expressed negative feelings towards migrants coming from outside the EU. Essentially, this is the same number which had been measured six months earlier.

According to Eurobarometer’s surveys, the number of those believing that migration to Hungary is an important issue quadrupled between November 2014 and May 2015. While in November 2014 only 3 percent of the population listed immigration as one of the two most important domestic problems, in the Eurobarometer survey conducted in the second half of May 2015 their number already increased to 13 percent. Thus, the importance of immigration has come to equal that of pension benefits, public debt and crime. At the same time, there was no change in respect to the four issues of most concern (unemployment, state of the economy, health care and welfare security, and rising prices and inflation).

Research shows that the negative attitudes towards immigrants (and foreigners) is independent from the actual number of refugees entering Hungary or foreigners living in the country, Already in June 2014, well before the huge influx of refugees to Hungary started, 47 percent of the adult population thought that too many migrants arrive from countries outside the European Union, according to Political Capital’s research conducted by Ipsos. However, the significant ratio of non-respondents (24 percent) suggests that a large number of people have never had any personal experience with migrants. At that time (well before the government’s anti-immigration campaign), Jobbik sympathizers were the most likely to express intolerant attitudes, with 58 percent saying there were too many migrants. While the absolute majority did not agree with the statement that “the majority of migrants are criminals”, a significant minority, three out of ten respondents, agreed to it, at least to some extent.

Regarding anti-Semitic sentiments, Hungarian polling institute Medián conducted a public-opinion survey commissioned by the Action and Protection Foundation at the end of 2014. According to their findings, the size of groups completely immune to anti-Jewish sentiment and those extremely sensitive to the issue has increased since 2013. According to the study, roughly one-third of the population is characterized by anti-Semitism and one-fifth by strong anti-Jewish attitudes. At the same time, seven out of ten are not anti-Semitic. Between 2006 and 2011 anti-Semitism grew significantly in Hungary and since then it seems to have been decreasing again. Anti-Jewish attitudes are closely related to party preferences. Among Fidesz-KDNP sympathizers the ratio of anti-Semites is above average, while it is below average among those supporting leftist opposition parties (with the slight exception of Együtt-PM supporters). Typically, the incidence of anti-Semitism is exceptionally high among Jobbik supporters. 53 percent of them are strongly and 15 percent moderately anti-Semitic. At the same time, 32 percent of Jobbik supporter are not anti-Semitic, i.e., it cannot be claimed that all followers of the radical party subscribe to anti-Semitic theories. According to the researchers, anti-Semitism is the manifestation of a general xenophobia within the Hungarian society. Data shows that respondents with negative views of other ethnic groups are also more likely to have negative views of Jews.

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