Socialist László Botka is statistically tied with Viktor Orbán in new Republikon poll

László Botka, the Hungarian Socialist Party’s (MSZP) candidate for prime minister, is statistically tied in popularity with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, according to a poll by the Republikon Intézet. Mr. Orbán’s favorability rating rests at 46%, followed by Mr. Botka at 44%. Gábor Vona, the leader of the Jobbik party, stands at 31% among the main contenders for prime minister ahead of national elections in 2018.  Mr. Botka has the highest favorability rating among undecided voters, scoring 44% in this category, compared to 29% for Prime Minister Orbán and 29% for Mr. Vona. Among respondents who defined themselves as either liberal or left-wing, 82% approve of Mr. Botka. Interestingly, 23% of Fidesz voters have a positive impression of Mr. Botka.

Among Jobbik sympathizers, 16% have a positive opinion of Mr. Botka, compared to 18% of Jobbik voters who have a generally positive impression of Mr. Orbán. Republikon used this statistic in particular to point out that MSZP may no longer be more rejected among Jobbik voters than Fidesz is–at least when the question focuses on the opposition party’s candidate for prime minister.

Source: Republikon Intézet

But does the popularity of a leading party politician necessarily translate into votes cast for his or her party in an election? Historically, the answer would be ‘no.’ For instance, people like Budapest District Mayor Gergely Karácsony of the tiny Párbeszéd party or Bernadett Szél of the Politics Can Be Different Party (LMP) have been among the country’s most popular politicians, yet their respective parties continue to receive under 5% support in polls. For instance, according to the most recent Republikon poll, Ms. Szél is Hungary’s second most popular politician, with approval ratings tied with Mr. Orbán at 46%. Mr. Karácsony is not far behind in third place, with 37%. Yet, in this most recent poll, LMP scored 3% and Párbeszéd continues to stagnate at 1% among decided voters.

As for party popularity and voting intentions: the new Republikon poll has Fidesz at 28% (down 3%), MSZP at 9% (down 2%) and Jobbik at 9% (down 3%). The Democratic Coalition stands at 3%, while Együtt and LMP are both at 2%. Support for the small parties has remained largely unchanged. Where we have seen a marked change is the 6% rise in the proportion of undecided or uncertain voters–undecideds now stand at 45%. The fact that Mr. Botka is doing well in this demographic suggests that the left-centre opposition has room to grow, provided that Mr. Botka manages to strike some sort of working arrangement ahead of the next election with the opposition parties. That is a daunting task.

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