Does population decline lead to a "populist voting mark-up"? A case study of the Netherlands

Eveline S. van Leeuwen*, Solmaria Halleck Vega, Vera Hogenboom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The main thesis of this paper is that people in areas of (expected) population decline vote more populist to express their discontent about the current and future state of their place of residence. In many ways a “populist voting mark-up” could be expected, as declining areas often are associated with being forgotten, fomenting societal discontent and mistrust in established political parties ultimately expected to lead to more populist votes. Using the outcomes of the Dutch national elections in 2012 and 2017, we link shares of populist votes for the PVV (Party for Freedom) and SP (Socialist Party) to indicators of population decline, as well as other demographic (“compositional effects”), local and regional characteristics (“contextual effects”) to appraise what causes higher rates of votes for populist parties in regions of decline. We do not find a “populist voting mark-up” for declining regions when controlling for contextual effects. However, we do find that both the compositional and the contextual circumstances in areas of population decline are in such a way that they provoke discontent expressed in voting. We also conclude that it is very important to distinguish between different parties when their party programs are as contrasting as in the case of the PVV and the SP. Their different focus on immigration (PVV) and jobs (SP) is clearly visible in the results.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRegional Science Policy and Practice
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Oct 2020


  • broad welfare
  • population decline
  • populist voting
  • the Netherlands

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