Is the Netherlands on the Right Track? A Deep Dive into Public Perception

The Netherlands is a nation known for its progressive spirit and active citizenry. But what do the Dutch people themselves think about the big issues facing their country? In this blog post, we’ll embark on a journey through the results of the Lifepanel quarterly tracker, focusing on the data collected in Q1.

We’ll dive into the hearts and minds of the Dutch public by examining how different demographics answered three critical questions that hold immense weight for the nation’s future. We’ll explore public opinion on whether being a member of the European Union has been a positive force for the Netherlands. We’ll identify the most pressing issue currently facing the Netherlands, according to the Lifepanel survey. And finally, we’ll uncover public sentiment on the overall direction the country is headed in.

Prepare to be surprised by how age, region, and other factors can influence public opinion on these important matters. So, buckle up and join us as we dissect the thoughts and concerns of the Dutch people, revealing a nuanced picture of the nation’s current mood.

The respondents that were invited to participate were chosen randomly without any stratification or propensity scores. All the data has been weighted for age, gender, education, employment status, and region.

Let’s begin our exploration with a question that cuts right to the core: To what extent do you agree that the Netherlands is going in the right direction?

To what extent do you agree that things are going in the right direction in your country? Age group comparison.

The Lifepanel data reveals a fascinating generational divide on this issue. People under 29 present a mixed picture. While a decent portion (38.5%) somewhat agrees that the country is on the right track, a significant number (24.3%) strongly disagrees. This suggests a generation with both hope and concern for the future of the Netherlands. Only a small percentage (5.8%) expresses strong agreement, hinting at cautious optimism among some younger citizens.

The trend continues when we look at the 30-49 age group. Here, too, we see a lack of consensus. While slightly fewer (33.1%) somewhat agree with the statement compared to under-29s, the number who strongly disagree (30.7%) is even higher. It’s interesting to note that strong agreement (7.5%) remains low, indicating a general hesitancy to express full confidence in the direction the Netherlands is headed.

The perceptions of individuals aged 50 to 64 regarding the Netherlands’ trajectory paint a concerning picture. Not a single respondent strongly agrees that the country is on the right path, with only 17.2% somewhat agreeing. Conversely, 34.5% somewhat disagree, and a staggering 47.7% strongly disagree. These findings underscore a deep-seated lack of confidence and widespread discontent within this demographic.

Continuing our analysis, let’s shift our focus to the perceptions of individuals over 64 years old. Contrasting with their younger counterparts, this group appears marginally more optimistic about the Netherlands’ trajectory. Thirty-six percent somewhat agree with the statement, with 7.9% expressing strong agreement. However, the majority holds reservations, as indicated by 22.5% strongly disagreeing and 30.5% somewhat disagreeing that the country is heading in the right direction.

The following chart explores how education level impacts public perception of the country’s direction.

To what extent do you agree that things are going in the right direction in your country? Education level comparison.

Those with primary education are the most critical, with a strong majority (67.2%) disagreeing and only a small portion (6.8%) strongly agreeing. This skepticism lessens with higher education levels. Among those with secondary or post-secondary education, disagreement remains high (over 60% combined for both groups who somewhat or strongly disagree), but there’s also a notable presence of those who somewhat agree (around 30% for both groups). University graduates show a similar pattern. The most significant difference comes from those with PhDs. Here, strong disagreement drops significantly (13.4%), while disagreement softens to a majority who somewhat disagree (67.8%). Notably, nearly one-fifth (18.8%) of PhD holders somewhat agree the country is on the right track, with none strongly agreeing.

Now let’s explore how age demographics influence another question: has the Netherlands benefited from EU membership?

All things considered, would you say your country has benefited from EU membership or not? Age group comparison.

The chart reveals a clear trend. Younger citizens are most enthusiastic about the EU’s impact. A strong majority (63.5%) of those under 29 believe the country has benefitted, with only 15% disagreeing. This optimism wanes with age. The 30-49 year old range demonstrates significant indecision, with nearly half (41.4%) unsure. A plurality (32%) in this group feels the Netherlands hasn’t benefited, while only 26.6% believe it has. Senior citizens hold even more divided views. Those aged 50-64 lean negative, with over half (51.6%) indicating the country hasn’t benefitted, compared to 29.9% who believe it has. Interestingly, the oldest demographic (over 64) reverses the trend. Here, nearly half (46.9%) say the Netherlands has benefitted, while only 31.7% disagree. It appears both younger and older generations hold more positive views on the EU’s impact compared to middle-aged citizens.

Education level also plays a role in how people perceive the Netherlands’ EU membership.

All things considered, would you say your country has benefited from EU membership or not? Education level comparison.

While those with only primary education are somewhat divided (28.3% believe it benefits, 32.3% disagree), a significant portion (39.4%) remains unsure. This uncertainty persists among those with secondary education (27.1% unsure), though a slight majority (34.4%) see benefits. This pattern continues with those holding post-secondary or university degrees. The most striking difference comes from PhD holders. In this most highly educated group, there’s a resounding consensus (100%) that the Netherlands benefits from EU membership. This suggests a potential link between educational attainment and a more positive view of the EU.

Overall, the data reveals a fascinating interplay between education level and age demographics in shaping public perception of the EU. While younger citizens and those with higher education seem more optimistic, middle-aged citizens and those with lower education levels appear more skeptical. Further research could delve deeper into the reasons behind these trends.

Finally, let’s examine how different age groups perceive the biggest challenges facing the Netherlands.

What do you think is the most important problem that your country is currently facing? Age groups comparison.

The cost of living emerges as a top concern across all demographics. Among those under 29, it’s the most pressing issue for 28.3%, followed by climate change and the refugee crisis. Similar concerns plague the 30-49 age group, with cost of living at 26.4%, followed by refugees (23.1%) and healthcare (12.4%). The 50-64 year olds share the top two concerns (cost of living at 23.1% and refugees at 22.8%), with public safety emerging as a third worry (17.9%). Interestingly, the priorities shift slightly for the oldest citizens (over 64). While cost of living remains a concern (17.9%), refugees become the top issue (21.4%), followed by climate change (19.1%). Although there are some variations, it’s clear that cost of living and concerns about immigration are major issues for all age groups in the Netherlands.

What do you think is the most important problem that your country is currently facing? Age groups comparison.

Education level also shapes perceptions of the Netherlands’ biggest challenges. Those with no or primary education prioritize economic concerns, with cost of living the top issue for 29.3% of respondents. Political corruption is another major concern for this group (23.1%), followed by public safety (13.6%). A similar pattern emerges among those with secondary or post-secondary education, where cost of living remains the top concern (around 23%). However, for these groups, political corruption remains a significant worry (around 21%).

University graduates present a more nuanced perspective. While cost of living remains their top concern (23.8%), climate change gains significant traction (19.9%), suggesting a growing environmental awareness among this group. Political corruption also remains a concern (17%).

The most significant divergence comes from PhD holders. Climate change rockets to the top of their worry list, with a commanding 43.1% identifying it as the biggest problem. This suggests a strong correlation between higher education and a heightened focus on environmental issues. Healthcare (21.7%) and the education system (13.9%) are also noteworthy concerns for this highly educated group.

The Lifepanel data paints a fascinating picture of the Netherlands – a nation with a complex perspective on its current state and future. While the country is known for its progressive spirit, public opinion on key issues reveals a surprising depth of division.

Age and education are key factors influencing these divisions. Younger citizens, on average, express more optimism about the country’s direction and the EU’s impact. They are also more likely to view climate change as a major concern. In contrast, middle-aged citizens appear more skeptical and tend to prioritize economic issues like cost of living.

Education also plays a significant role. Those with lower education levels demonstrate greater skepticism about the country’s trajectory and the EU, often prioritizing economic concerns. However, higher education seems to correlate with a more positive view of the EU and a heightened focus on environmental issues.

Further research is needed to understand the reasons behind these trends. However, the Lifepanel data offers valuable insights into the current mood of the Netherlands – a nation wrestling with its identity and its place in the world.

The survey was conducted from January to March on 829 respondents over 16 years old and was based on a nationally representative sample of Dutch adults, with 95% confidence a given range contains the true result at a population level and an error margin of 2.5%. The results are weighted, base weights are calibrated for age, gender, educational attainment level and place of residence and adjusted for non-response.

Stole Smilkov
Stole Smilkov
Stole Smilkov is the Business Development Manager of Sample Solutions BV, and leading the further growth of Lifepanel from a research but also commercial perspective.