The cosmopolitan-parochial divide: changing patterns of party and electoral competition in the Netherlands and beyond

Catherine E. De Vries*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Recent election outcomes in Europe and beyond reflect a growing scepticism of open borders among the public. From the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom to the election of Donald Trump in the United States, rhetoric that is critical of the organizations facilitating policy co-operation and learning across borders as well as international trade and migration is popular among a growing segment of the electorate. Are these recent developments part of a larger trend of party and electoral change? By focusing on changing patterns in party and electoral competition in the Netherlands, this article suggests that they are. Relying on expert and voter data, it argues that party and electoral politics in the Netherlands are increasingly characterized by both an economic left–right as well as a cosmopolitan–parochial divide. While the former relates to issues of state intervention into the economy, the second refers to stances on European integration, migration and national control in international affairs. This cosmopolitan–parochial divide has become largely independent of the economic left–right dimension, and influences people’s voting decisions independently of their left–right views. Interestingly, the cosmopolitan–parochial divide in the Netherlands should not necessarily be understood as a cultural backlash, but rather seems a reflection of increased economic insecurity. Although the evidence stems from the Dutch case, I suggest that the cosmopolitan–parochial divide is a useful lens through which we can understand political change in Europe more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1541-1565
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • European integration
  • European politics
  • immigration
  • political dimensionality
  • political parties
  • public opinion
  • the Netherlands


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