Een Pandemie van Polarisatie? [A Polarization Pandemic?]

Marijn Keijzer et Kieran D. Mepham


Political polarization has been identified as a key societal risk of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While various actors have expressed concern about extreme single-issue opinions, mass polarization may be characterized better as increasing association between various opinions. This could lead to deepening cleavages as new issues arise. We thus describe opinions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic relative to pre-existing mass opinion structures. We review the science on polarization, ultimately focusing on the Netherlands specifically. Using survey data of Dutch social media users (N = 216), we find that opinion clustering on general political issues is loose, and that these clusters do not uniformly predict attitudes towards measures to combat consequences of COVID-19. Nevertheless, the found clusters are better predictors than ideological identification. These results stress the importance of conceptualizing polarization as multi-attitudinal clustering rather than as unidimensional opinion difference.

Publié dans

Mens & Maatschappij, vol. 96, n° 2, mai 2021, p. 179–211