25th Mar 2023

Trust in Dutch government drops, but not for Rutte

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Trust in all branches of the Dutch government has plummeted in the past year, according to new polling by I&O Research on Tuesday (21 September).

Only four-out-of-ten voters are now content with the current (outgoing) cabinet, compared to 45 percent in July - and 67 percent in mid-2020.

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Confidence in the ministers (32 percent), the House of Representatives (36 percent) and government in general (42 percent) have also declined sharply.

About 15 percent of those surveyed have "lost all confidence" in the government. This percentage is even higher among the low-skilled at 20 percent, up from 13 percent six months ago.

Especially on the political right, distrust has soared - with FVD (73 percent), BBB (38 percent), PVV (37 percent) and JA21 (35 percent) voters saying they have "no trust in the government at all."

"People don't feel represented," said head researcher Peter Kanne in a Dutch radio interview on Tuesday, referring to the tax-benefits scandal that shook the country this year.

The government had falsely accused tens of thousands of parents of child benefit fraud. Many of them had to pay back the entire amount, often losing their homes, their children and their health due to extreme stress.

Following the scandal, and after losing a vote of confidence, the cabinet of prime minister Mark Rutte resigned. Rutte publicly admitted that he is "politically directly responsible" for the affair.

He then proceeded to win the election in March. However, since then, he has not been able to form a new government, and so only remains interim head of state.

This political impasse has been accompanied by a string of prominent resignations in his (outgoing) cabinet, with Sigrid Kaag, the foreign minister, and Ank Bijlenveld, the defence minister, leaving last week over parliamentary criticism of the government's handling of the evacuations from Afghanistan.

The deadlock exacerbates government inaction on issues that have lead to protests in the past, among them the ongoing nitrogen crisis - leading to farmers' protests in 2019 and 2020 - a building impasse, and the lack of affordable housing. Earlier this month, an estimated 15,000 people demonstrated in Amsterdam against soaring housing prices, which rose by 14.6 percent in 12 months.

However, the study finds the loss of trust among voters in government does not seem to extend to Rutte.

"In the current formation [crisis], many people still see Rutte as the most appropriate prime minister, especially because they are disappointed in the alternatives," the report states.

The perception of Mark Rutte as a "reliable prime minister" has increased since May, while support for other leaders has dwindled. Polls consistently show his party (VVD) at between 20 to 25 percent of the electorate. Since the elections, it has increased.

"Voters probably see there is no alternative," Gert-Jan Segers, leader of the ChristenUnie and his political rival, explained on Tuesday. "If anyone can survive political conflicts, it is him."


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