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We’re Looking at the Same Thing but Seeing It Differently

The Magyar Nemzet is the main daily outlet of Hungary. Founded in 1938, the Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation) is a reference journal for the conservatives of Hungary. The conservative newspaper is close to the current Hungarian government lead by Viktor Orbán.

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This article have been published online by the Magyar Nemzet on November 16, 2020.

While in America, television represents voters’ most important source of information, it’s internet news portals in Hungary—found the Lounge Group’s representative study conducted in both the USA and Hungary around the time of the US presidential elections. According to the study, Hungarian news consumption preferences significantly differs from general media consumption; in the United States, TV is still an important news source, but online platforms are becoming increasingly prevalent.

The Lounge Group’s representative study of both Hungarian and US voting behavior during the US presidential elections brought surprising results. According to the findings on primary news sources, Americans prefer TV while Hungarians prefer online portals.

In examining the two countries, there are distinct differences in news and general media consumption.

Among Hungarians of voting age, media consumption is almost equally distributed between Internet and TV. However, when it comes to news or content related to the public sphere, online forums lead in Hungary: 41% of politically active participants indicated the internet as their primary platform. Meanwhile, nearly 60% of US participants indicated TV as their main source. This is not too surprising considering the enormous interest surrounding the televised presidential debates. For instance, 73 million viewers tuned into the first debate; on the night of the elections, 71 million American viewers followed the live results in front of their TVs. During prime time, Fox News alone was watched by 13.7 million—leaving behind even CNN and MSNBC.

When looking more closely at various age groups, there are significant disparities in platform preferences for news consumption.

Hungarian youths—specifically between the ages of 18 and 34—have very clearly taken to Facebook and primarily prefer this platform for news. Online portals come in second, then TV. Yet among the 35-49 age group, Facebook usage for this purpose considerably drops to almost the same rate as radio. In America, 18-34-year-olds make up the largest ratio of readers on Facebook, however it’s not first place for them; TV is also the primary source for this youngest generation of American voters.

“As with everything, globalization is noticeable in media consumption trends. On political and social issues however, there still remains completely different habits of consumption. Internet and TV media consumption in Hungary has for years been expanding side-by-side. Today, we can refer to general screen time in Hungary too, given that we watch TV on our phones and go online on the TV. But this trend is not just relevant here—the prevalence of multiscreen media consumption is growing worldwide; in other words, TV and internet are getting closer in time and space” said Krisztina Hidvégi, Media Director of the Lounge Group. She went on: “Rather, the question is not whether we consume other media or whether media consumption is globalizing, but instead, if our tools and media preferences are the same for political and public content?”

According to the Lounge Group study

American voters update themselves more often than Hungarians on political and public sphere content.

More specifically, over 80% regularly read up on domestic politics and policies. Among Hungarians with the same habits, this proportion is under 60%. Moreover, Hungarians typically start to take an interest in politics and social affairs at an older age. Consequently, only a third of Hungarian 18-29-year-olds follow domestic political news with some regularity; parallelly, the same age group across the Atlantic reaches a 70% rate of active news consumers.

“Both among Americans and Hungarians its evident that the older the population segment, the more interest in politics. In Hungary however, the gap between younger and older generations in terms of openness to political content is much greater” said Krisztina Hidvégi.

The relationship to political and public issues alludes to fundamental differences in socialization which in turn cause differences in attitudes and, ultimately, in consumption. In Hungary for example, diverse conversations and opinions on political-social issues are not typical. Rather, views are discussed with family members or maybe close friends. Americans ask for and offer opinions over a much greater scope: religious leaders and local businesses may play a role in decision-making, and political analysts, influencers, and celebrities also get more weight to their opinion in the US. For example, the latter is particularly disdained by Hungarians.

Every second Hungarian rejects the publicized political opinion of their favorite actor, musician or youtuber.

Therefore, well-known figures in Hungary rarely openly manifest their opinions on the public-sphere.

It holds true in both countries that about 25% of voters live in so-called opinion bubbles. This means that most of their friends and acquaintances share the same views; on social media and other forums they mostly encounter opinions that they agree with. Concerning political opinion formation, this is not a very positive trend– these voters are not confronted by any opinions outside of their microcosms that may expand or enlighten their views and decisions.

A survey of 2000 people was conducted by Cygnal LLC on behalf of the Lounge Group in the US from September 5-7, 2020. The Századvég Foundation conducted the Hungarian counterpart of the study in early October 2020; the 500-person sample was representative of Hungarian society based on age, gender, and type of settlement residence. The research findings were also reviewed by the largest news agency in the US, the AP. Prestigious US newspapers and portals that publish Lounge Group research include Yahoo Finance and Marketwatch, reaching more than a hundred million readers every month.