Political preference research

The University of Amsterdam and political TV programme Een Vandaag recently released interesting research on the preferences of Dutch voters, and their supposed volatility.

Their conclusions are that it’s political parties more than voters who are volatile, moving now to the left, then to the right. Voter preferences hardly change, but voters more and more need to switch parties regularly in order to vote according to their preferences.

In addition, the paper finds that it’s voters from any sort of middle group (income, education, or political preference) that are most volatile. There is no more centre party, apparently. CDA is too confused, D66 too much for higher-educated city dwellers.

The research confirms the existence of a left and a right block, with fairly little traffic between them. The left consists of SP, GL, and PvdA, and the right of CDA, VVD, and PVV. In this paper D66 is the only true centre party, catching votes from both left and right. In addition, the paper sees very little vote exchange between PvdA and CDA. It does not say anything about movement between SP and PVV, but the most recent polls suggest that such a move is definitely going on.

In my mental model there are three conduits that allow voters to move from right to left. If these three voter movements take place simultaneously, the left wins a lot of seats from the right (or vice versa):

The paper agrees on VVD-to-D66, but adds that many CDA voters, too, may consider the Democrats. Though the numbers support that conclusion up to a point, the amount of VVD-to-D66 switchers is still much larger than the amount of CDA-to-D66 switchers. I always thought that the CDA was too socially conservative to have much in common with D66, and from these numbers that appears to be true up to a point. Not all CDA voters are social conservaties, though: some are just genuinely centrist, and for them D66 remains an alternative.

The paper also says there’s hardly any evidence for voter movement between PvdA and CDA. That may be so, but the research is only about 2006 and later — exactly the period that both these parties performed their incredible shrinking act. If both of them lose voters it’s only natural that they don’t exchange any: unhappy right-wing PvdA voters casting around for an alternative won’t like an equally confused CDA, and will instead opt for D66. So I’d like to revisit this voter conduit once at least one of the two parties performs well in the polls.

As to the PVV to SP conduit: the current crop of polls makes clear that it is in fine working order. The paper doesn’t dissect this conduit in detail, but it’s clearly there (see for instance table 4.1, page 32).

Finally, the paper gives the various parties some strategic advice. There are several interesting points here:

<— Yes, PVV in trouble | SP and PVV research —>

This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.


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