A large majority of the Dutch are concerned about polarization, especially in politics, the media and on social platforms such as Twitter. They are disturbed by the deteriorated manners and a hardening in the political and public debate that they see.
The Dutch experience less polarization in their own immediate environment. This is because they mainly surround themselves with like-minded people. In addition, they often avoid discussions with friends, family and colleagues about difficult issues in an effort to avoid conflict.
This is evident from research by the Social and Cultural Planning Office SCP). Three-quarters of those surveyed believe that disagreements on social issues are on the rise. According to the SCP, scientific research contradicts this impression: there is more agreement on many subjects than people think and differences of opinion are not increasing.
What mainly bothers the Dutch is the harsh tone of the debate, not listening to each other properly and sticking to their own right. People experience that especially small groups with a confrontational style receive a lot of attention in talk shows on TV, among other things.
As mentioned, they try to avoid these kinds of confrontations wherever possible in their own environment, but that becomes more difficult the more they are personally affected by a subject. This concerns, for example, racism, LGBTI rights or nitrogen. Avoidance was also difficult with corona: that affected everyone and discussions about vaccination therefore also caused tension in their own circle.
‘Avoid hostile tone’
The SCP concludes from the study, among other things, that it is important to avoid a harsh and hostile tone towards dissenters in the political debate and to focus on the content. Excessive hostility and the magnification of contradictions “can over time undermine social cohesion and the functioning of democracy,” the agency writes.
On the other hand, both the media and politicians would do well not to place differences of opinion in the corner of polarization too quickly, says the SCP. “After all, there are always differences of opinions and views and they are part of a democracy.”