Dutch voters somewhat susceptible to populism: study

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Dutch voters want a strong leader that will get things done, but within the democratic rules, according to a large-scale poll on populism by international poller Kantar Public. The researchers questioned representative groups in the Netherlands, France, Germany and Great Britain. They concluded that Germans are the least susceptible to populism, the French and English the most. The Netherlands is in between, the Volkskrant reports. 

The Dutch tend to vote based on conviction, rather than in protest. Only 15 percent of Dutch respondents said they voted for a party because they were frustrated or angry at other parties. Researcher Tim de Beer told the newspaper that protest voters in the Netherlands tend to end up with "anti-establishment parties", like animal party PVV, DENK, 50Plus or nationalist party PVV. 

Voters in the other questioned countries are much more willing to vote out of protest - 41 percent in Germany, 37 percent in France and 23 percent in Great Britain. In all countries highly educated people tend to vote on conviction, while those with lower levels of education tend to vote out of protest.

67 percent of Dutch voters said they want a strong leader that will get things done, compared to 77 percent of French voters and 78 percent of Brits. Only 24 percent of Germans agreed with that statement. 

Education also plays a role in the degree of satisfaction about the functioning of democracy. Almost two thirds of all Dutch respondents are satisfied with how democracy functions, a much higher proportion than in France and Great Britain, according to the newspaper. But a large majority of Dutch voters with lower levels of education are very dissatisfied with democracy. 

Discontent seems to be aimed more at politics and politicians in particular, and less at political institutions like democracy, the EU and traade unions. The Germans are the most positive about political institutions, followed by the Dutch. 

A minority of 28 percent of Dutch, English and French voters and 37 percent of German voters believe that politicians are honest. "Again we see a huge education gap", De Beer said to the Volkskrant. "People with low education are much more skeptical and suspicious." They don't believe their country is now a better place to live than ten years ago, and also have low expectations for the coming decade.

Dutch populism expert Cas Mudde, who was not involved in the study, told the Volkskrant that the study's questions were good, "but populism is very difficult to measure." According to him, a classic populism study question is: Do you want a strong leader? Answering 'yes' to that question is interpreted as people are against democracy. "But that's not true. What people usually want is a powerful democratic politician. With such a question you measure much more the dissatisfaction about the political class than that of the democratic system."

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