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More Than One in Four Dutch Discontent Ahead of Election

More Than One in Four Dutch Discontent Ahead of Election

by Nader Nekvasil and Mathilde Lugger
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 28% of Dutch disaffected and discouraged
  • Disaffected and discouraged less confident in national institutions

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Prior to the March general election in the Netherlands -- Europe's first substantial test this year of rising populist sentiment -- more than one in four Dutch residents (28%) in 2016 lacked confidence in their national government and were less positive about their future than their present situations. Recent Gallup analysis suggests this condition of being "disaffected" and "discouraged" may prove useful in understanding the extent of populist sentiment in a given country.

More Than One in Four Dutch Discouraged, Disaffected

Breaking down these two metrics, 42% of the Dutch surveyed in 2016 were disaffected with their government, while 38% of the population rated their future lives the same or worse than their current ones. Twenty-eight percent were both disaffected and discouraged, which is on the higher end of percentages since the previous general election in 2012 (24%). Gallup's earlier analysis showed that countries that have been experiencing populist movements tend to have people with lower levels of trust in their government and less optimism for the future.

Gallup measured this percentage of disaffected and discouraged in the Netherlands last year, prior to the second-place finish of populist candidate Geert Wilders in the national election. Wilders ran on a platform that called for the Netherlands' exit from the EU, as well as stringent immigration and refugee policies. Despite its second-place finish in the election, Wilders' "Party for Freedom" gained five seats in the Dutch parliament while incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte's "People's Party for Freedom and Democracy" lost eight seats.

The 28% of Dutch who are disaffected and discouraged ranks among the lower half of the 27 EU countries surveyed. However, the Netherlands is tied for first among EU countries when it comes to the percentage of residents who are less hopeful about the future than the present.

Disaffected and Discouraged Citizens in the EU and U.S., 2016
No confidence in national government (disaffected) Future life poorly viewed relative to current life (discouraged) Disaffected and discouraged
% % %
Greece 81 67 54
Italy 75 62 46
Slovenia 75 60 45
France 70 64 43
Romania 76 51 40
Bulgaria 67 53 36
Spain 69 52 34
Belgium 57 62 34
Hungary 55 58 33
United Kingdom 56 57 32
Austria 55 56 31
Slovakia 51 61 31
Estonia 57 51 29
Finland 48 60 28
Netherlands 42 67 28
Lithuania 65 44 28
Czech Republic 45 60 27
Germany 43 60 27
United States 69 38 26
Portugal 57 44 25
Denmark 53 51 25
Cyprus 60 39 23
Poland 49 47 23
Sweden 49 50 23
Luxembourg 30 67 22
Ireland 38 58 21
Latvia 57 38 21
Malta 37 45 17
Note: Croatia was not included in the current ranking, due to lack of available data for 2016.
Gallup World Poll

Disaffected and discouraged Dutch are more likely to be out of the workforce and are less likely to have received a four-year college degree. The latter is consistent with previous Gallup research that showed that U.S. adults without a bachelor's degree were more receptive to Donald Trump's populist campaign messaging. However, that research also showed that there is not necessarily a link between being out of the workforce and supporting Trump.

Disaffected, Discouraged Likely to Be Out of Workforce, Less Educated
Out of workforce Received a four-year college degree
% %
Disaffected and discouraged 42 17
Not disaffected and discouraged 25 34
Among Dutch

Disaffected, Discouraged Lack Confidence in National Institutions

With "Nexit" having been one of Wilders' central campaign promises, Dutch who are disaffected and discouraged are more than twice as likely to disapprove of EU leadership (68% vs. 29%). Dutch who are disaffected and discouraged are also more likely to lack confidence in national institutions, including the judicial system (66% vs. 19%), financial institutions (76% vs. 41%) and the electoral process (46% vs. 16%). The backlash among this group against the EU and other national institutions is somewhat to be expected, since its members lack confidence in their national government as a whole.

Dutch Disapproval and Lack of Confidence in National Institutions
Disapprove of EU leadership Not confident in judicial system Not confident in financial institutions Not confident in honesty of elections
% % % %
Disaffected and discouraged 68 66 76 46
Not disaffected and discouraged 29 19 41 16


With populist sentiment and coalitions growing in European countries, the March general elections in the Netherlands were seen as a barometer for populist sentiment throughout the continent. The defeat of Wilders' "Party for Freedom" by the incumbent party may initially seem like a dampening of populist sentiment in Europe.

However, it is more likely that the gain in parliamentary seats for Wilders' party, alongside the increased percentage of disaffected and discouraged Dutch since 2012, puts a greater spotlight on future European elections in 2017. A number of European countries with a significantly higher percentage of disaffected and discouraged citizens than the Netherlands have yet to hold their general elections.

Notably, France, with 43% of the population disaffected and discouraged, will be holding general elections in late April, where according to polls, populist candidate Marine Le Pen is currently deadlocked with liberal candidate Emmanuel Macron in the first round of voting. Results from that election may confirm the weight of populist sentiment throughout Europe. Gallup expects to release an analysis on French optimism and confidence around the April 23 election date.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted between 2006 and 2016 in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. For results based on the total sample of national adults in each country, the margin of sampling error is ±3.4 to ±4.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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