Hungarians long for strong leader who ‘takes the country back’ from the wealthy

Farkas Norbert /
Farkas Norbert /

Hungarians long for strong leader who ‘takes the country back’ from the wealthy

Anti-elite sentiments and social dissatisfaction: we analysed the Hungarian results of Ipsos’ 2023 populism survey.

Citizens of twenty-eight countries feel their respective states to be in decline, and that the fabric of society is broken – according to a public opinion survey conducted by Ipsos at the end of 2023. Hungary also participated in the survey. Anti-elite sentiments are widespread in most countries, while strong leaders seem to be more and more in demand.

Aiming to better understand how Hungarians think between elections, our article focuses on the Hungarian results of the survey examining the overall popularity of populism.

The first graph makes it apparent that Hungarians have a very negative opinion about society in general: 69 per cent of respondents believe the country is in shambles. This is 12 percentage points higher than the average of the 28 participating countries, but the result still paints a slightly better picture than its 2021 counterpart. Some Hungarians, however, also believe that it cannot get any worse, as 63 per cent agree with the statement that the country is in decline.

For the survey, Ipsos developed the “broken system index”, aggregating responses to five questions:

  • the economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful,
  • traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me,
  • to fix the country, we need a strong leader willing to break the rules,
  • the country needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful,
  • experts in this country don’t understand the lives of people like me.

Based on the global aggregation of reactions to these statements, 61 per cent of total respondents believe the system is broken, but in Hungary, this ratio is 66 per cent. The situation is regarded the gloomiest in South Africa, while the majority of Germans are somewhat satisfied in this regard.

In our graph, we highlight three of the five statements: it turns out that although Hungarians desire a strong-willed leader to take back the country from the wealthy and powerful, they would not be satisfied with said leader breaking the rules. However, more than three-quarters of respondents agree that the Hungarian economy favours the wealthy.

73 per cent of respondents are disillusioned with traditional parties as well, believing that they do not care “about people like me”, while this apathy is also apparent in another response. 69 per cent of Hungarians believe that it should be referendums that decide in the most important political issues, as opposed to elected officials.

When it comes to improving the situation, 52 per cent of Hungarians believe stopping immigration would be one of the possible means to do so. Only one-fifth of respondents disagree with this notion. There was much greater support (81 per cent) for that employers should favour Hungarian workers over immigrants, although only half of the respondents thought that immigrants were actually taking jobs from the “real” Hungarians.

Several of the questions pertained to the country’s elites. 70 per cent of respondents in Hungary see the elite as a closed group holding similar values, and virtually the same proportion feels that members of the elite only consider their own interests when making decisions, without caring about the rest of the country. Overall, 25 per cent think that the elite believe that their decisions are in the best interest of most Hungarians, although they are often not so.

Questions related to public funds and spending were also included in the survey. Three-quarters of Hungarians reject the idea of a tax increase to strengthen the national budget, with only 9 per cent in support of such an initiative.

However, this does not mean that Hungarians believe there are no areas where the government should allocate more funds. The highest proportion of respondents would give more money to healthcare, followed closely by education and public safety. The fourth place was taken by the reduction of poverty and inequality, but three-quarters of respondents also mentioned job creation and infrastructure development as well. Defence and national security, however, are not in need of more funding according to half the nation, while 18 per cent would not even mind budget cuts in these areas.


The survey serving as the basis for the study was conducted at the end of November 2023 and the beginning of December 2023 with the participation of more than 20,000 individuals aged between 16 and 74 in 28 countries worldwide. The survey was conducted on samples of 500 to 1000 people, with 500 individuals surveyed in Hungary. The margin of error is 3.5 to 5 per cent. The results regarding Hungary can be considered representative for the adult population under 75 years of age.

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