Barack Obama

Obama more popular with Dutch than homegrown politicians

26th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama is much more popular in the Netherlands than any of the country’s own politicians.

This high esteem by the Dutch public is revealed in the results of an online poll conducted by opinion researcher Maurice de Hond, following last week’s trip to the White House by Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. The poll was conducted through the website.

With a ranking of 7.4 (out of a possible 10), Obama outstrips all Dutch politicians, none of whom have ever scored a similar mark. In the six years that de Hond has collected ‘report marks’ for politicians in weekly polls carried out for Dutch public broadcaster NOS, no Dutch politician has managed to score a 7, let alone a 7.4.

Of course, with respondents having different political views and affiliations, a Dutch politician is unlikely ever to score well across the entire political spectrum.

Top marks from Labour
Obama is doing well among Dutch voters of all persuasions. However, there is a degree of difference in his popularity with the Dutch electorate. His highest marks come from people who say they voted for the governing Labour Party at the last Dutch election in 2006 (a 7.7 for Obama), or for the Christian Democrat CDA—the main party in the current three party coalition—or opposition GreenLeft party (a 7.6). On the other hand, supporters of Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party only give a 6.4 to the current occupant of the White house, while Conservative VVD voters give him a 7.1.
AFP Photo

This latest poll focused on Obama and the Netherlands’ attitudes towards him as a result of last week’s visit to meet the US president by Dutch Christian Democrat president Jan Peter Balkenende.

Meeting agenda
The Netherlands’ role in Afghanistan, particularly in the southern province of Uruzgan where the country currently has troops based, was high on the agenda for that meeting, as was the issue of the ‘re-housing’ of people currently being held at the detention centre in US-administered Guantanamo Bay on Cuba.

Balkenende indicated that his country would not ‘abandon’ Afghanistan when its military mission in Uruzgan comes to an end and also said it would, after all, ‘consider’ the possibility of taking in Guantanamo detainees, should that prove necessary to help Obama close the centre as he promised on coming to office at the beginning of 2009.

Not so keen
On these issues, the poll shows that the Dutch are not quite so keen to see their support for Obama translated into too much practical support. Only among supporters of the GreenLeft (opposition) and the much smaller government party the Christian Union are there clear and distinct majorities (68 and 69 percent, respectively) in favour of taking in Guantanamo detainees.

The far right opposition Freedom Party but also the conservative VVD and left wing Socialist Party show clear majorities against this possibility (92 percent, 64 percent and 65 percent, respectively). This is remarkable, in the case of the VVD voters, as the party in parliament is in favour of taking in former prisoners.

US President Barack Obama (r) meets with the Prime Minister of The Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende (l) at the White House, 14 July 2009

In the case of the Afghanistan mission, views are less clear cut. News agency ANP summarise them as showing that more than 40 percent of the Dutch are prepared to see some troops stay on in Afghanistan after the end of the mission at the end of 2010. Around 20 percent would even agree to the current military mission continuing but on a smaller scale. However, almost 33 percent want a complete withdrawal at the end of 2010. According to de Hond, the latter figure has dropped from more than 50 percent six months ago.

Tim Fisher
Radio Netherlands


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