Elections in the Netherlands in the period 1989–2006 have shown major changes in the supply of political parties and at some points a very large volatility of results. We describe these developments against the background of theories of dealignment and realignment. Specifically, we focus on the alleged rise of a new ‘cultural’ dimension of political conflict in Dutch politics at the level of the electorate. We show that the electorate's position on political issues representing the traditional conflict dimensions (left–right, religion) has been relatively stable. Since the early 1990s, new political problems have become salient for the voters. Sympathy for political parties can be modelled by three dimensions (authoritarian–libertarian, left–right, religious) which are related to the voters’ positions on political issues. These positions on issues representing traditional and new political conflict dimensions also affect voting behaviour for traditional and for new political parties.
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This programme of surveys among the Dutch electorate, a collaboration of all academic departments of political science in the country, started in 1971 (with studies conducted in 1956 and 1967 as forerunners). The elections that we will focus on are those in 1989, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2006. All data analysed here are publicly available through the DANS data archive; refer to www.dans.knaw.nl. The original questionnaires are also available at the website of the Dutch Parliamentary Election Studies, www.dpes.nl.
‘Practicing’ is here understood as: attending church services at least once per month. Religious denomination is recorded on the basis of self-reports. This also applies to social class: working class and upper working class have been collapsed, and so have middle class, upper middle class and upper class.
The unexpected increase in the percentage classified as ‘secular working class’ in 2006 is probably at least for some part due to sample properties of the 2002, 2003 and 2006 studies. After years of relatively low and decreasing response rates, the 2006 study had a very high response rate. It is likely that the fluctuations in response rates disproportionately affect the participation of secular working-class people in the survey.
Following international conventions, in 2006 the scales were changed to an 11-points format (0–10). For presentational purposes, the scales have all been transformed to the 0–10 range.
One exception is that in 1994 the newly formed parties for the elderly, AOV and Unie 55+, were not included in the relevant questions. For 1989, party evaluation scores are not available. For that year only, we have used the so-called probabilities of future vote-questions instead.
The correlation coefficients were computed using pairwise deletion of missing data in order to include information from as many survey respondents as possible.
The acronyms of the party names used are explained in the contribution of Krouwel and Lucardie to this issue.
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Aarts, K., Thomassen, J. Dutch Voters and the Changing Party Space 1989–2006. Acta Polit 43, 203–234 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1057/ap.2008.6
- political parties
- Dutch politics
- political change in the Netherlands