Hungarian municipal elections - Fidesz mayor’s sex tape baffles pollsters

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Nézőpont and Századvég predict an easy victory for Tarlós, but the other think-tanks expect an incredibly close race on Sunday. Uncertainty was more prominent than usual during the analysts’ conference, nobody dared to predict, how Borkai-gate will affect the voters.

Pollsters found themselves in a pickle by the end of the municipal election campaign. The leaked sex tape of Zsolt Borkai, Győr's Fidesz mayor and the details about him that were posted on an anonymous blog have overwritten every political- and media-agenda.

One or two days are simply not enough for the think-tanks to measure the effects this scandal could have on Sunday's election. So the heads of the biggest think-tanks in Hungary had to come up with all sorts of excuses for themselves at the conference organized by Közvéleménykutató on Thursday afternoon.

The heads of the five big think-tanks agreed during the discussion that Borkai-gate will have an effect, but they could not tell which voters this scandal will mobilize, or indeed, demobilize. Here are some quotes to illustrate the uncharacteristic caution of the researchers:

  • András Pulai (Publicus): “I think the Borkai-tape will mostly make Fidesz voters more unsure, while it will also rile up the opposition's voters because it completes a puzzle that used to be incomplete.”
  • Péter Pillók (Századvég): “It is going to have a chilling effect on some groups, while it will also mobilize other groups. Events like this are rare, so their effects are hard to predict.”
  • Dániel Nagy (Nézőpont): “The fact that such a big bomb was dropped by the opposition could affect the results. Erotica spiced up the campaign.”
  • Tibor Závecz (Závecz Research): “If only it was erotica, and the more tasteful kind at that.” “It could have a mobilizing effect in Budapest.”
  • Endre Hann (Medián): Medián measured in the past few days how brutal do the voters think this campaign is. 56% of the whole population said they have never seen such a rough campaign, while 44% thinks it is just like previous ones. 40% of the population said that it is Fidesz' fault, 20% thinks it is the opposition's, while the remaining 40% blames both sides. But even looking at these numbers does not make it clearer whom these scandals would mobilize or whom they would keep away from the ballot boxes.

Tarlós is in the lead – either by a little or by a lot

The researchers were more comfortable talking about the Tarlós-Karácsony duel, although they all emphasized that the race much closer by now. To be clear, they all measured the difference between the two Lord Mayoral candidates od Budapest than they did even a month or two ago. The predictions of Nézőpont were especially interesting, as only a few weeks ago they measured an 18-percentage-point difference between Tarlós and Karácsony, while other think-tanks considered the difference to be much smaller.

Dániel Nagy said they have no intention of influencing the Fidesz-supporters. In their latest survey, they only found the difference to be 6 percentage points. The previous, sizeable difference was probably the result of the leaked audio footage of Gergely Karácsony, which made his voters more uncertain during the time of the survey, while it also riled up many Tarlós' voters.

It is worth to take a look at the final predictions of the big think-tanks, and also to check them again on Sunday evening after the results our out. The predictions of each think-tank are listed in the following order: Tarlós – Karácsony – Puzsér – Berki (the methods were not entirely the same, but they all cover decided voters):

  • Nézőpont: 49 – 43 – 8 – 0
  • Závecz: 48 – 46 – 6 – 0
  • Medián: 48 – 47 – 5 – 0
  • Publicus: 48 – 48 – 4 – 0
  • Századvég: 51 – 43 – 5 – 1

It is apparent that while Nézőpont and Századvég (both have ties to the right) predict a comfortable win for Tarlós, the other institutes expect a much closer game. We'll see on Sunday who was more accurate.

Apart from the cold, hard facts gathered from Budapest, the researchers also brought plenty of interesting analyses that could give us a clearer picture about what to expect on Sunday.

  • Nézőpont assessed the maximum number of supporters for each candidate: that was 500,000 for Tarlós, 400,000 for Karácsony, and 95,000 for Puzsér. This figure is the number of people whom candidates can potentially win over, not the number of their actual voters.
  • Závecz Research compiled data from towns and cities. According to this, out of the 23 cities with county rights, 17-18 cities will be pro-government. Opposition victories are almost certain in Szeged and Salgótarján, and the opposition also has a chance to win in Hódmezővásárhely, Szombathely, Pécs and Dunaújváros, while Eger and Miskolc are exciting battlegrounds. With regards to Budapest's districts, Závecz found that Fidesz has a good chance of winning in 13-15 of them.
  • Medián has asked people if they want to change the government or keep it. Nationwide, 50% would keep it, 41% would change it, while it is the other way around in Budapest: 51% wants to change the government while 38% wants them to retain power.
  • Publicus studied whether people would rather vote for Tarlós or Karácsony, broken down by party-preference. The most interesting was the case of Momentum: 84% of their voters in Budapest support Karácsony and 8% support Tarlós. This means Karácsony has some reserves in Momentum's base.
  • Századvég measured whom people expect to be the winner in Budapest, regardless of their personal preferences. The result was a devastating Tarlós-victory: 70% of Budapesters expect Tarlós to win and only 18% expect Karácsony to come out on top. There are 1-1% who think Puzsér or Berki will win.

These are the last predictions before Sunday's election. It will be interesting to pick up this article again next week. Ágoston Sámuel Mráz, the head of Nézőpont mentioned during the conference that they are planning to organise another discussion after the election, where they could evaluate the conclusions.

This article is a translation of the original published in Hungarian by Index.

(Header image: Presentation of Endre Hann, CEO of Medián. Photo: Orsi Ajpek / Index)

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