Summary - Tricky issues

Eight focus groups on representation and voting

Original title: Lastige kwesties

Since the beginning of 2017, the Dutch State Commission on the Parliamentary System has been working to see if our democracy is sufficiently future-proof. The State Commission has asked the Netherlands Institute for Social Research | SCP to extend qualitative research into non-voting, which has already been planned, to include subjects for the Commission.

This was done in eight group discussions about representation and voting/non-voting. The discussions were held in September 2017 in four locations (Amsterdam, Assen, Dordrecht and Eindhoven). They offer greater insights into the background to the concerns, desires and behavioural motives of the Dutch public with regard to parliamentary democracy and elections in the Netherlands. Representation and improvements to the parliamentary system turn out to be awkward issues, not only for politicians and researchers but also for the participants in the group discussions (for whom this is not an everyday exercise, of course). A number of subjects do however recur frequently in the group discussions and apparently do worry people: the difficulty finding a party that you agree with completely, the (too) large number of political parties and the lack of comprehension of splits and ‘seats being stolen’.

This report gives a summary and explanation of the groups and it reflects on improvements that could be made to the parliamentary system and the use of focus groups. It was used by the State Commission for its interim report issued on 21 July 2018.