Acta Politica

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 333–355 | Cite as

Bounded volatility in the Dutch electoral battlefield: A panel study on the structure of changing vote intentions in the Netherlands during 2006–2010

  • Tom van der Meer
  • Rozemarijn Lubbe
  • Erika van Elsas
  • Martin Elff
  • Wouter van der Brug
Original Article


Dutch elections continue to be the most volatile of Western Europe. But to what extent do voters’ changes in vote intentions continue to be structured by underlying ideological dimensions? This article discusses various theories on the ideological structure of the Dutch party system at the electoral level, and the way they relate to processes of dealignment and realignment. We test these theories using the 1Vandaag Opinion Panel data set, which follows 54 763 respondents in 53 waves between November 2006 and June 2010. We assess individuals’ changes in vote intentions, and analyse the structure in these changes. We draw three conclusions. First, Dutch voters are boundedly volatile and they tend to stick to one of two blocks of parties: a block of traditionally left-wing parties (PvdA, SP, GL) and a block of right-wing parties (CDA, VVD, TON and PVV). D66 functions as the electoral lynchpin between these blocks. Second, the Dutch party system is best described by a sociocultural dimension and a socio-economic dimension. Third, there is support for realignment (along the sociocultural dimension) and continued alignment (along the socio-economic dimension). Yet, we find evidence for widening electoral divisions: there is an electoral gap in the traditionally crowded political centre.


party system voters volatility voting behaviour realignment electoral competition 



This study is part of the research programme ‘Adrift or adroit? On the sources of electoral volatility in the Netherlands, 2006–2010’, which was financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The authors are grateful for the valuable comments on earlier drafts by the anonymous reviewers. All appendices are available online at


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom van der Meer
    • 1
  • Rozemarijn Lubbe
    • 1
  • Erika van Elsas
    • 1
  • Martin Elff
    • 2
  • Wouter van der Brug
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamthe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of GovernmentUniversity of EssexColchesterUnited Kingdom

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