20% of Dutch population had doubts about coronavirus strategy

Posts criticising the coronavirus pass system. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Some 20% of the population of the Netherlands had doubts about aspects of the government’s strategy to deal with coronavirus and many of them felt they were not being listened to, according to research by sociologists working for government social policy think-tank SCP.

“Many of the coronavirus measures may have been easy to explain, but if you zoom out, you see an accumulation of exclusions for people who did not accept the strategy,” SCP researcher Joep Schaper told broadcaster NOS. “And that fanned a lack of trust.”

The research is based on a survey completed by 2,800 people plus an analysis of social media messaging and reporting in four daily papers. The researchers also interviewed people who were sceptical about the government’s approach.

The SCP said the government should have listened better to the concerns underlying sometimes extreme points of view and try to understand why people felt that way.

Coronavirus sceptics represent a wide range of society and do not differ in their mental health, media use, or experiences with Covid from the rest of the population, the researchers said. But they do have a lack of trust in the government in common.

The SCP said it advises the government “to be curious” about the arguments of people who have strong dissenting opinions. This, the agency said, is because there are often understandable questions and concerns underlying them.

In addition, the insights provided by the research may “also be relevant for other themes, such as measures around climate change and nitrogen-based pollution,” the agency said.

The researchers also found that two-thirds of people feel it is not possible to judge whether reports about coronavirus on social media are true or not. And almost 30% think the media paid too much attention to alternative ideas about the disease.

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