Higher educated most politically active

People with a high level of education are generally more interested in politics, are more active voters and participate in political actions more often than lower educated people. Women appear to be less interested in politics and less involved in political actions than men, but their inclination to vote is similar. This is indicated by a background article published today by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on political involvement in the Netherlands (“Politieke betrokkenheid in Nederland”). CBS publishes the article exactly 100 years after universal suffrage was introduced for the male population of the Netherlands on 12 December 1917. Women acquired the right to vote on 1 January 1920.
Between 2012-2014, political interest waned slightly among the Dutch population and then remained stable throughout 2015 and 2016. Nevertheless, political participation did not decline and the voter turnout during the general (parliamentary) elections of 2017 was higher than in 2012.

Figures are derived from a survey on social cohesion and well-being (“Sociale Samenhang en Welzijn”) in Dutch society, held in the period 2012–2016 among over 38 thousand persons aged 15 years and over. Questions included whether they had voted in the 2012 general elections and whether they had joined any political actions over a period of five years. Their interest in politics was gauged through the question how much interest they had in politics, i.e. none, some, fairly much or very much interest.

Political interest greatest among highly educated

Of those with higher professional and university education, 78 percent  say they are fairly or very much interested in politics; this share is 28 percent among the least educated (primary education). The share of interested people is higher among men (58 percent) than among women (44 percent). The politically aware are more active participants, turn up to vote more often during elections and are more inclined to join political actions.

Turnout rates in the 2012 parliamentary elections – the most recent elections on which CBS has data - do not show any difference between men and women, but do demonstrate that there is a difference between higher and lower educated people.

Political engagement, 2012/2016
 Politically engaged (%)
Primary education27.9
University, Doctoral78

Higher educated show more political engagement

Even when looking at other forms of political participation aside from voting in the elections, the higher educated show more commitment; for example, people with a university diploma are more inclined to sign petitions, are more politically active on the Internet and initiate more contact with media or politicians in comparison with people who have had only basic (primary) education. Men are more likely to get involved in political actions than women, although this is a narrower gap than between the lowest and highest educated.

Participation in political actions, 2012/2016
 Participation in political actions (%)
University, Doctoral65.4

Signing of petitions is the most popular activity aimed at trying to influence politics. The second most common activity is going through media and on the Internet. Least popular are protest demonstrations, pressure groups and involving a certain political party for a cause.

Participation in political actions, 2012/2016
 Participation (%)
Radio, TV, newspaper17.7
Internet or email 11.1
Contact with politician or official9.4
Public consultation or hearing6.6
Demonstration or protest action4.4
Involving a political party or
Action group3.4