Roy Kemmers researched political unrest in the Netherlands in his dissertation

Therefore, Kemmers would focus on the way ordinary people talk and write about politics. For his research, he analyzed, among other things, letters sent to the Telegraaf. Letter sections are seen, especially during his first study (in 2011, when Twitter’s role was still marginal), as an important place for public debate. De Telegraaf seemed to him to be the most logical phase: “The unrest in that newspaper is great, and a well-known columnist once said that Telegraaf ‘has the thermometer in the bib of society’.”

Geert Wilders

Political unrest appeared to be greatest among PVV voters, followed by non-voters. This unrest was further analyzed by Kemmers on the basis of in-depth interviews with individuals from both groups. One would expect PVV voters to experience more political satisfaction because they feel represented by Geert Wilders. While this was true for some, it sometimes turned out not to be the case. “These interviewees indicated that they actually voted for Geert, but at the same time doubted whether their vote really mattered. They wonder if power is actually being distributed in The Hague, or if other forces are at stake. “

Transparent power orientation

Conversely, it turned out that non-voters are often interested in politics, and some recognize that by not voting they are powerless. This group is well informed, eg through newspapers and television. Yet they are deliberately put on the sidelines and not of disinterest, as is often assumed. Some experience no political satisfaction, but surprisingly, others do. It gave the researcher the insight that it is not so much the voting behavior that explains the differences in political satisfaction, but above all the belief in where the power lies. Voters who adhere to a ‘transparent power orientation’ believe that the country is governed by The Hague and the institutions we know.

“I call the alternative power orientation ‘opaque power orientation’. This group thinks; this is not how politics works and this is not how decisions are made.” For them, the power does not lie in The Hague, but in multinational corporations, the Bilderberg group or other statements that are soon called conspiracy theories. listen carefully to how people make sense of reality. ”


This listening took the form of conversations of two to six hours, and Kemmers regularly visited the respondents at home, where he sometimes even stayed for dinner. “It was often very pleasant conversations, and they also indicated that they liked to tell their story. We spoke in a very relaxed way, and I asked about their lives and the political path they have taken, ”he says. Pim Fortuyn often proved to have published a lot. “Some felt awakened by Pim. One respondent said ‘Politics was a black and white silent film for me and Pim turned it into color TV’.

Different phases

The stories clarified how the voters turned away from established politics, and the PhD student saw a clear pattern in this. He called these phases introduction (for example via statements from Fortuyn), validation (the search for like-minded people, for example via a YouTube channel) and consolidation, where someone organizes their life according to new ideas. This study dates back to 2016, and since then there have been more and more examples of groups turning away from the established order. You can also recognize these phases in the Trump uprising, the emergence of QAnon, or opposition to corona politics. Kemmers thus refutes the image that voters have turned away from modernity as a toy: “It is actually a very gradual process, and they themselves have carried out extensive research and sometimes rely only on their own sources.”

The concept of ‘power orientation’ also seems to be increasing in relevance. The Groene Amsterdammer mentioned it in an article, and a poll approached Kemmers to make this measurable for a study. Data he used for his quantitative research. It showed, among other things, that the extent to which people subscribe to an opaque power orientation is highest among the Forum for Democracy (FvD) voters. “There is a group of citizens who have a very different political experience than ‘The Hague’. There is not much room for that in the national media and political science. You will no longer receive this group with a brochure or public campaign. It is important to recognize this. ”

By: National Education Guide
Photo: Erasmus University Rotterdam

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