Education, rather than exposure to immigrants, is emerging as the clearest nationwide indicator of the likelihood of Dutch voters supporting Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration Party for Freedom, according to an extensive Financial Times survey of demographic and voting data from the most recent general election.
Mr Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) looks on course to win the most seats in the upcoming election on March 15, but is likely to be blocked from power after most parties indicated that they would refuse to join it in a coalition.
The PVV’s resurgence is part of a wave of populism that has swept Europe, capitalising on fears over immigration, growing Euroscepticism and anti-establishment sentiment.
The blond-haired populist paints an idyllic picture of his supporters, labelling them Henk and Ingrid.
In Mr Wilders’ words, they are the “backbone” of Dutch society: “Mr and Mrs Average with their own houses, one nice holiday a year and an active social life.”
In the eyes of Frits Bolkestein, a former mentor turned critic of Mr Wilders, they are something else: “People with a grudge. They’re unemployed, their daughter’s on drugs and their son has run away.” The reality is more complicated.