Nearly 25 years have passed since the collapse of communism in Hungary. Has this period allowed for the emergence of a new generation of democrats? Have young people successfully come to terms with the authoritarian past and developed a commitment to democracy as a system of rule? Are they ready to defend democracy in the face of challenges? These questions are all the more timely as former research focusing on youth has highlighted the emergence not only of progressive tendencies in Hungary, but also of the rising influence of a radical subculture that propagates ultranationalist, xenophobic and authoritarian views and values among Hungarian youth.
The findings of the researchers who authored this study focusing on Hungarian college and university students reveal the existence of a new type of mindset, one that is characterized by openness to new values that are considered post-materialistic, according to social scientist Ronalod Inglehart. It is unclear if the unprecedented demonstrations organized by the Student Network (HaHa) in December 2012 contributed to this development. But the findings are certainly important in illustrating that those who prioritize post-materialistic values are strongly in favour of democracy as a political system, even if they are highly sceptical about the version of democracy they are currently experiencing in Hungary.
However, the data presented in this study also highlights an opposite, unquestionably more powerful and worrisome trend. The radical right-wing party Jobbik is, at least according to this research, currently the favorite party of Hungarian college and university students. 36% of the sample surveyed said that Jobbik does a good job appealing to youth; 24% expressed the belief that Jobbik is the most serious party when it comes to the fight against corruption; and 26% of respondents consider that Jobbik has “a satisfactory solution to the problems derived from the conflicts between the Roma and non-Roma population.”
All in all, this research shows that democracy may open up new, unexpected channels of political participation and that organizsations engaged in sustained effort to connect with young people are the ones who have the greatest chance to shape their views, values and agendas.
It is our hope that the empirical findings of this study can help the work of policy-makers and other professionals who are committed to democratic values and are striving to find answers to the political challenges of the 21st century.