ABSTRACT

In the course of comparative interdisciplinary research on Austrian and Hungarian national identity (Kovacs and Wodak 2003) we analysed the strategies used by Hungarian politicians and opinion-makers to promote a general acceptance of NATO-membership as well as the reaction of public opinion regarding this political offer. The following study deals with the second problem. First we wanted to find out whether public opinion in the country really did support the decision of the politicians to join NATO. We were also curious to discover how many of those people who opposed NATO-membership were supportive of clear alternatives, that is, how many people wished the country to be neutral, and how many people belonged to some kind of anti-Western camp. Apart from registering the respective sizes of these groups and defining them in social and demographic terms, we sought also to answer two other important questions: whether the positions held by respondents were based mainly on current political considerations and factors or whether they could be explained by deep-rooted socio-political attitudes. In addition, we also examined whether, in public opinion, Hungary's integration into the Western military structures was linked in some way to the identity debates about Hungary's place in the world. Sununarizing the findings of our research, we may state that public opinion on NATO-membership is strongly, but only partially, influenced by practical political considerations. Some sections of public opinion were also responsive to the arguments which raised the issue of NA TOmembership from the level of everyday politics and rendered it part of the discourse on constructing national identities. Our results suggest that both supporters and opponents of NATO-membership found a version of the national discourse that was suitable for the expression of their political goals, and that both supporters and opponents of membership succeeded in mobilising national sentiments with a view to promoting their aims.