Half of Budapest residents are anti-Semites? The dramatic spread of Hungarian antisemitism

Medián, one of Hungary’s top polling firms, published the results of a comprehensive and startling study into the scope and nature of antisemitism in Hungary. The poll shows a significant rise in antisemitism, with the number of Hungarians who are seen as “rejecting” Jews on a purely “emotional” level increasing from 9% in 2003 to 23% in 2014. It should be noted that the dramatic increase in these numbers occurred starting in 2010, after Fidesz came to power and once Jobbik had truly entered the national discourse. Endre Hann, Medián’s director, attributes the sharp rise (from 10% in 2009 to 28% in 2010) to Jobbik’s presence, as it took about a year after their first major victory in the European Parliamentary elections for Jobbik and its views to gain legitimacy. When it comes to the combined total of “strong” and “moderate” anti-Semites in Hungary, this proportion stands at 32%, or one-third of the Hungarian population.

The study also explores levels of antisemitism among the voters and supporters of the major Hungarian political parties. According to these results, fully 23% of Fidesz voters are “strongly antisemitic,” with an additional 14% being classified as “mild anti-Semites.” In the case of Jobbik, 54% of the party’s base is “strongly antisemitic and 15% harbours a “mild” prejudice against the Jewish population. The only major political party in Hungary that, according to Medián, has no “strongly antisemitic” members is Politics Can Be Different (LMP), where 23% of supporters are seen as “mildly antisemitic.” In the case of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), strong antisemitism is present among 16% of socialist voters, while the mild variant is typical among 8%. In the case of the Democratic Coalition (DK), the proportion of both strong and mild anti-Semites stands at 13%.

Antisemitism is alarmingly high in Budapest. According to Medián, 49% of Budapest residents are anti-Semites, while in rural Hungarian towns this proportion is, on average, 24%. “The level of receptiveness to antisemitism is highest in Budapest,” said Mr. Hann.

An example of a defaced Holocaust monument in Hungary, with graffiti from 2013. Photo: atv.hu

An example of a defaced Holocaust monument in Hungary, with graffiti from 2013. Photo: atv.hu

The  study found that most anti-Semites are also supporters of the death penalty, as well as a heavy-handed, punitive approach to drug-related issues. Most of those who are antisemitic are also homophobic, according to the poll. “For a significant portion of the Hungarian population, Jews simply form one embodiment of ‘the other’,” concludes Medián.

Equally concerning is the finding that even among those Hungarians who Medián did not  find to be antisemitic, the myth of there being a “worldwide Jewish conspiracy,” was accepted by 12% of “tolerant” respondents.

The proportion of Holocaust-deniers has also risen since 2010 and now stands at 15% of the Hungarian population. Additionally, one quarter of Hungary’s population believes that the number of Jewish victims of the Holocaust is actually “much lower than previously thought.”

Thanks in large part to the activities of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government, 40% of Hungarians now believe that the Hungarian state bears no responsibility for what happened to Hungarian Jews during World War II.

After reading through Medián’s findings, I was interested in seeing how Hungary compared regionally. According to statistics compiled by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the proportion of anti-Semites in Poland stands at 45% of the population, which would make this higher than that uncovered in Hungary. The poll also found that 57% of Poles believe that Polish Jewish are “more loyal” to Israel than to Poland. In the case of the Czech Republic, however, the proportion of anti-Semites is significantly lower than in Hungary, standing at just 13%.

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