Dutch support for blackface Zwarte Piet dwindling

Sinterklaas_zwarte_piet Michell Zappa Wikimedia commons

The proportion of Dutch who think that Sinterklaas' controversial helper must stay in his traditional blackface form decreased from 65 percent in 2016 to around 50 percent this year, according to a survey by research agency I&O Research among 3,145 Dutch aged 18 or older, NOS reports.

30 percent of respondents think that the discussion about Zwarte Piet's appearance is justified. 68 percent think it isn't, compared to 80 percent two years ago. 44 percent are in favor of changing the controversial character's appearance, an increase of 12 percent compared to 2016. Only 1 percent of respondents think that Zwarte Piet must be completely abolished.

The biggest shift in opinion happened in the youngest age group. Two years ago 68 percent of 18 to 34-year-ods wanted to keep Zwarte Piet's traditional appearance. This year only 38 percent are against changing his appearance. In the oldest age group, 65 years and older, there was almost no change.

Opinions on Zwarte Piet differ considerably per region and between the different education levels. A third of highly educated people prefer Zwarte Piet's blackface look, compared to two thirds of less educated people. Residents of the Randstad are more often in favor of changing Piet's appearance, while people in the north and south of the country would rather keep the traditional appearance. 

The differences are also clearly visible in political preference. Some 75 percent of people who vote for populist parties PVV and FvD and elderly party 50Plus want to keep the traditional blackface appearance, while around 75 percent of GroenLinks, PvdA and D66 voters want to change Piet's appearance.