Dutch concerned about polarization in society: planning office

Dutch people are increasingly concerned about the society and the way people in the Netherlands treat each other, as well as about the economy, according to the quarterly report on the mood in the Netherlands by social and cultural planning office SCP, the Volkskrant reports.

According to the SCP,  35 percent of Dutch are concerned about the way people are living together in the Netherlands, with some saying they experience a growing intolerance. The same percentage are concerned about immigration and integration, and 31 percent are concerned about the economy.

Three quarters of those surveyed believe that polarization on social issues like climate change and refugees is increasing. They blame this on the changed mentality - "everyone has started to think only of themselves" - the multicultural society, and the media. Some 70 percent of Dutch believe that the internet and social media are increasing the differences between people. Half of Dutch believe traditional media also play a role in this. 

The SCP also noted that the population sees social conflicts between native Dutch and Dutch with an immigration background, and conflicts between people with different political views as growing problems. Many Dutch also see a big contrast between poor and rich people in the Netherlands. 

Dutch are also losing confidence in the economy, according to the planning office. Last quarter 84 percent of the Dutch population gave the economy a sufficient score, now it's 78 percent. This quarter 67 percent of Dutch expect the economy to improve in the coming year, compared to 78 percent last quarter. And 58 percent of Dutch now think that the Netherlands' economy is declining, compared to 48 percent last quarter. People cite lower purchasing power, higher housing costs and the rising costs of living as reasons for their somber expectations.

On Thursday Statistics Netherlands reported that the majority of Dutch are satisfied with their lives and optimistic about the state of the Netherlands, which seems at odds with what the SCP now reported. But Paul Dekker, one of the researchers who worked on the SCP report, sees it differently. "You can be satisfied with your lie and still worry about society", he said to the Volkskrant. "I rather see that as a sign of citizenship, that you care about others."

While the SCP report shows that many Dutch think that the differences of opinion about social issues are increasing, population surveys show that the polarization has not increased on average. While polarization increased on topics like EU memberships, it decreased on topics like euthanasia, according to the newspaper. And while the percentage of Dutch who agreed with the statement 'There are people I have come to hate because of the positions they take' increased from 13 percent seven years ago to 16 percent now, it is still lower than in 1970 when 19 percent of Dutch said they hate people because of their views. 

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