People are increasingly worried about polarisation in Dutch society, according to a report from the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP).
The research, part of an ongoing litmus test of opinion in the Netherlands, has found a greater sense of opposition and polarisation, ‘tension’ between ethnic groups, rich and poor, and a concern that social media increase divisions.
Paul Dekker, SCP programme leader in values and meaning, told the NOS broadcaster that these worries may not actually represent increasing divisions – even though people have this impression.
‘There is a very strong angst about a sense of society falling apart and groups standing in greater opposition against each other,’ he said. ‘One example is the polarised debate about Zwarte Piet, or Christmas, and also whether things are traditionally Dutch or not.’
‘But when we look at how opinions have developed, we have not seen that they have got more extreme or more opposed over the decades.’
The research showed that 76% of the people surveyed believe there is a great deal of opposition between rich and poor people, as well as chasms between people based on education, ethnic background and different politics. But although people were more likely to hate others for their point of view (16% compared to 13% in 2012), this sense of division was even greater in 1970 (19%).
Seven in 10 people surveyed also thought that social media increase divisions, while about half believed the traditional media do this. But according to Dekker, all of these media could be part of the solution.
‘It would be good if the media could temper their tone in discussions and present more of a debate rather than statements that just confirm people’s opinions so they stay in a bubble,’ he told the NOS.
People were also less positive about the Dutch economy and concerned about climate change policy according to the survey, which is held quarterly.
Yesterday Dutch statistics office the CBS reported that in 2018, nine in 10 people surveyed were happy with their lives and 56% were optimistic about how things are going in the country. However, 35% were pessimistic.
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