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The fight on the right: what drives voting for the Dutch Freedom Party and for the Forum for Democracy?


In 2017, the Forum for Democracy (FvD) and the Freedom Party both won seats in the Dutch parliament. Both of these parties are radical right-wing populist parties. It does not happen often that two radical right-wing populist parties gain seats in the same election. The question is to what extent these two radical right-wing populist parties have been able to carve out different niches for themselves. This paper examines the competition between these two parties looking at three surveys spanning between 2017 and 2019, when FvD became the largest party in the Dutch Senate. The paper finds that there are social-economic differences between the two electorates in terms of economic policy preferences and education level. The electorate of the FvD is also more libertarian where it comes to moral issues than PVV voters are. The paper concludes that despite not having the manifesto of a neo-liberal populist party, in electoral terms FvD is the functional equivalent of one.

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Fig. 1

Source Louwerse (2019)

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Fig. 3


  1. 1.

    The Senate is indirectly elected by provincial councils. These were elected in 20 March 2019. FvD became the largest party in these elections. In the Senate election on 27 May 2019, the Liberal VVD and the FvD both won twelve seats.

  2. 2.

    Some like Otjes (2019) argue that the PVV is primarily concerned with the “deserving poor.” When we use an item to test this using the DPES, we find a significant difference in line with the results presented elsewhere in the paper: FvD attracts more economically libertarian voters, whereas the PVV attracts those who show greater concern for people who could be considered deserving poor.

  3. 3.

    Since there were no questions about class in the 2018 or 2019 LISS, a class hypothesis could not be tested. Model A9 and A18 consider the effects of class on voting for and sympathizing with the PVV and FvD in 2017. It finds no significant effect of class. We also look at the effect of income. This is available in the LISS but only for part of the DPES. We find no significant effect of having an income above or below the median.

  4. 4.

    The French-speaking Front National and the Flemish-speaking Vlaams Belang in the Belgian parliament are not included in the table, as these two parties are not competing for the same votes. The presence of the Alleanze Nationale and Lega Nord in the Italian party system between 1994 and 2008 is also excluded because the AN is a post-fascist national conservative party rather than a populist party. We do not list the Schweizer Demokraten and the Schweizerische Volkspartei because the SVP only became a truly radical right-wing populist party after the SD was already in parliament.

  5. 5.

    Smouter, K. (23/2/2011) “Excellentie is belangrijker dan gelijkheid” De Groene Amsterdammer.

  6. 6.

    Baudet, T., Broers, V., Mujagic, E. and Wellens, A. (30/5/2015) “Een oproep voor de democratie en dus tegen de Europese Unie” NRC Handelsblad.

  7. 7.

    De Overnachting NPO Radio 1 20/9/2015.

  8. 8.

    Schimmelpennick, S. (14/4/2017) “Dit is Quote mei; een glaasje met Thierry Baudet”

  9. 9.

    The 2017 survey had a pre-election wave and a post-election wave, the 2018 and 2019 survey were split into three parts. The fieldwork for the first part was held in December and January; for the second part in January and February and the for the third part in February and March.

  10. 10.

    It consists out of two subsamples, which were ran in different polling databases. Not all questions were asked in each subsample, leading to a significant decrease in the N if one combines certain items in the same analysis.

  11. 11.

    The LISS was one of the two databases used for the DPES. Regrettably, the overlap between the DPES and the LISS is too small to meaningfully analyze the support of the FvD, which only got 2% of the vote in that election.

  12. 12.

    In the DPES, there are multiple items on income redistribution. The item with the least missing values is selected in order to minimize the number of respondents lost.

  13. 13.

    The robustness test shows weaker results, in particular in 2017 where N is smaller: the results are not significant when an alternative economic indicator picking up on the “deserving poor” is included in the analysis of sympathy (Model A4), when populism is included in the analysis of vote choice (Model A14) and when class included in the analysis of vote choice (A18). This shows that in 2017 the economic differences between FvD and PVV voters were weaker then in 2018 and 2019.

  14. 14.

    The robustness tests in the Appendix support this result in every analysis.

  15. 15.

    This pattern is corroborated in all of the robustness tests.

  16. 16.

    The robustness tests support this pattern.

  17. 17.

    In no robustness test there is a significant difference between PVV and FvD voters.

  18. 18.

    The robustness tests support this pattern. Only in 2018 is there some sign of a difference on this variable. It is also not the case that the pattern was stronger when political cynicism was replaced by populism.


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The author would like to thank the reviewers of Acta Politica, Rens Vliegenthart, Gerrit Voerman, Wouter van der Brug, André Krouwel and Kristof Jacobs for their comments and suggestions and Niki Haringsma for his excellent editorial assistance.

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See Table 9.

Table 9 Additional sympathy differential models

Tables 9 and 10 present robustness tests.

Table 10 Additional vote choice models
  • Model A1 and A10 are models with an additional item tapping into the “deserving poor.” These items concern the policy deductible for healthcare costs (“eigen risico”) that hits “deserving poor” groups (elderly and handicapped people) harder than other groups. In the model analyzing the sympathy differential, egalitarianism is no longer significant once this item is included. This may imply that it was concern for the “deserving poor” rather than concern for the income distribution in general which differentiated FvD and PVV sympathizers. Due to a lack of items, we cannot test this for 2018 and 2019.

  • Model A2, A3, A11, and A12 include a populism item instead of a political cynicism item. This item was not available in the 2019 survey. Their effect is similar to the effect of political cynicism. Now, when analyzing vote choice, egalitarianism no longer differentiates the FvD and PVV voters in 2017.

  • Model A4, A5, A13, and A14 add a law and order authoritarianism item. The item relates to punishment for 2017 and to surveillance for 2019. This item was not available in the 2019 survey. Preferences about punishment or surveillance do not significantly differentiate FvD and PVV voters.

  • Model A6 and A15 include a class item. It does not significantly affect the choice of vote between PVV and FvD. If this variable is included, the effect of egalitarianism is weakened.

  • Model A7, A8, A9, A16, and A17 include an item whether a respondent’s income is greater than the median. This is not a significant difference between the groups. If this variable is included, the results are in line with the models in the paper. The Vote Choice Model for 2017 did not converge, in Model A10, we can already see how including this variable reduces the number of cases.

  • Model A18, A19, and A20 look at sympathy not in terms of the sympathy differential but like the vote choice model in stacked set-up. These results are in line with the models in the paper.

See Tables 10 and 11.

Table 11 Used items

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Otjes, S. The fight on the right: what drives voting for the Dutch Freedom Party and for the Forum for Democracy?. Acta Polit 56, 130–162 (2021).

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  • Radical right-wing populism
  • Neo-liberal populism
  • Economic policy
  • Moral issues
  • Freedom Party
  • Forum for Democracy