Covid crisis will likely not have lasting effect on Dutch attitudes

Covid-19: Three young men walk past a 'Fight the Virus' sign on Panamalaan in Amsterdam, 22 April 2020
Covid-19: Three young men walk past a 'Fight the Virus' sign on Panamalaan in Amsterdam, 22 April 2020NL TimesNL Times

The coronavirus crisis will probably not have a lasting effect on Netherlands residents' attitudes about institutions, politics or society, social and cultural planning agency SCP concluded after studying previous crises. The increased sense of solidarity and social confidence will likely also not last. But if the crisis lasts much longer, discrimination and stigmatization of people who - in the eyes of others - have something to do with the virus may become a major concern, SCP said. 

Confidence in politicians and institutions increased significantly during the crisis, reaching an all-time high in April. "A common explanation for this increase is that citizens of a country appreciate it if they feel that the government is acting decisively against an external threat," the SCP said. But based on previous crises, this increased confidence is temporary in nature.

The impending economic recession, among other things, will likely result in a rapid decline in confidence in politics and institutions, the agency expects. But added that this is no need for concern. "A healthy dose of mistrust, political skepticism, keeps the citizen involved and the government on its toes."

Social confidence and general social views that most people can be trusted and are willing to help others also showed a significant increase in April, compared to January. But this too will likely not last. Such increases were seen in previous crises, for example after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but declined a short time later.

The SCP advised the government to keep a close eye out for discrimination and stigmatization. "In previous epidemics, we saw that groups associated with the disease were at risk of being stigmatized and discriminated against," the agency said. With the coronavirus, it has already happened that people with an Asian appearance faced violence and taunts. "The elderly and people with underlying conditions may also feel discriminated against in the public debate, for example if the suggestion is made that saving their lives is at the expense of the economy or that an increased risk is their own fault," SCP said. 

"By monitoring stigmatization and talking to people from vulnerable groups, the negative consequences of this exclusion can be minimized," SCP said. The agency advised the government to use its communications to counteract these prejudices, and to enter into dialogue with representative groups, so that people feel heard and strengthened.