Democracy in retreat? Decline in political party membership: the case of The Netherlands

H. van Schuur, G. Voerman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

1 Citation (Scopus)


Membership in political parties is declining in The Netherlands, as it is in the rest of Europe. Between 1978 and 2010 membership dropped by a third, from about 450,000 to about 300,000, or 2.5% of the electorate; in 2007 alone, 29,000 people left their party, whereas only 21,000 joined. This is having the effect of weakening civil society, as is manifest in declining turnouts in elections, a growing distrust of government and political leaders, and a general sense among citizens of alienation from the political process. To understand the phenomenon of declining party membership, we fielded a web survey among ex-members, members, potential members, and non-members/voters of eight Dutch political parties. This allows us to compare the motives for joining or leaving various parties among people with different distances to these parties. The presentation of our findings are primarily organized around a set of recommendations by the Dutch Council for Public Policy for how to revive political parties, but in the discussion we draw as well on two more comprehensive models that also give rise to recommendations: the general incentives model for political participation (Seyd & Whiteley, 2002) and the civic voluntarism model (Verba, Schlozman, & Brady, 1995).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDemocratic Paths and Trends. Research in Political Sociology
EditorsBarbara Wejnert
Place of PublicationBingley (UK)
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-85724-092-7
ISBN (Print)978-0-85724-092-7
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameResearch in Political Sociology


  • political parties

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