In the Dutch general election, 2017 the overall result⁰ for the largest parties was:

  • VVD 21.3%, PVV 13.1%, CDA 12.5%, D66 12.0%, SP 9.2%, Groenlinks 8.9%, PvdA 5.7%, CU 3.4%, PvdD 3.1%

(for details on each party, follow the links from the wiki-page linked above)

Among people voting from abroad, the result was:

  • VVD 23.1%, PVV 8.1%, CDA 5.8%, D66 23.5%, SP 3.0%, Groenlinks 16.9%, PvdA 8.1%, CU 2.1%, PvdD 3.4%

There is no major¹ party where the relative difference is as dramatic as for the Socialist Party (SP), where the proportion of the vote among voters abroad is less than ⅓ of the proportion in total. Why is the discrepancy particularly large for the SP?

(Disclosure: I belong to the 3.0%)

⁰As of 17 March, this result is still preliminary based on a first round of counting, but is unlikely to differ by more than 0.1% from the final result to be announced on 21 March.

¹The new party DENK scored 2.0% in The Netherlands and 0.2% among voters abroad. Their voter base consists mostly of "new Dutch citizens", a.k.a. voters born abroad or with with parents born abroad, which (by definition?) live in The Netherlands.

  • 2
    I suspect this sort of question to be unanswerable with authority without good polling and demographic data comparing dutch expatriates to the dutch population as a whole. Having said that, one obvious factor is that the voters abroad are abroad, and the information I can find on the SP implies that it is fairly anti globalisation and multiculturalism.
    – origimbo
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 13:36
  • @origimbo SP is not anti-multiculturalism and scores quite will among migrant populations. It is critical of the policies by the EU, IMF, and the power of multinationals, but so is PvdD which does well among voters abroad.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 13:59
  • @gerrit - is it far to the "left" economically from PvdD? If so, perhaps the expats are self-selected to be "more right wing", economically - that's most certainly the case with more-socialist countries, but i'm unsure would work with Netherlands.
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 14:02
  • @user4012 PvdD economic policies are very similar to SP. I'm not sure how they differ. Note that the left-wing parties together (SP, Groenlinks, PvdD, PvdA) score about the same domesticaly as internationally, but the distribution within the left-wing bloc is different. The same for the right-wing parties (PVV, VVD, CDA, D66). (NB: D66 and CDA would describe themselves as centrist but have in recent history been more inclined to cooperate with the right than with the left, and are certainly more pro-business than pro-labour union).
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 14:08
  • One other aspect that can be relevant is that voters abroad tend to send their postal votes 2–3 weeks before the elections, so massive late changes are not reflected, but the 2017 elections saw less of those than the 2012 elections (when the SP dropped from 20% in the polls to 10% in the actual elections in the last 3 weeks), so I believe that does not explain the observation either.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 14:09

1 Answer 1


This answer is certain to be the demographics of the Dutch citizens living abroad, but let's look at the context to narrow it down. I'm going to focus mostly on the political Left as I'm seeing the reverse for GroenLinks (the Green Left party).

Historically, the left side of the Dutch political spectrum used to be the PvdA as the big labour party, with some small socialists and former communists on the fringe. In the last decades, the PvdA has moved to the center, opening up more space on the left for the Socialist Party as pure labour party and green parties such as GroenLinks and the Partij voor de Dieren).

The Socialist Party's campaign and programme are focused on the concerns of the low and middle skill/income labour constituency. They promise security in income, jobs and healthcare.

The Green parties do campaign on increasing equality and fairness, but don't shy away from environmental policies that will hurt financially. Their voter base is more the highly educated and financially secure progressives who find it hip and/or morally right to strive for a fair and clean world.

The answer lies in which of these voter bases is more likely to move and live abroad. That's overwhelmingly the highly educated professionals who find their skills in demand worldwide. For them, job security or healthcare costs simply aren't a major issue. The future of the planet is.

Other considerations

You will see the same effect for the CDA, the Christian Democrats. Their voter base is quite old and mostly rural in the Netherlands and their support from abroad is less than half of what it is nationally.

D66 on the other hand is a (socially) liberal centrist party with many progressive policies, but more of a soft touch economically. They are also a favorite of the highly educated and "world citizens" and it shows in the results.

The VVD is the secular pro-business right party and their performance is fairly consistent.

  • Sounds reasonable. As for the last paragraph, VVD scores about the same domestically and internationally but D66, with similar policies (perhaps more migrant-friendly but otherwise I'm not sure how they differ), but with almost exclusively university-educated voters, scores far better internationally than domestically.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 14:03
  • @gerrit You are right, I've updated my answer, as the D66 indeed supports my argument very well.
    – Cyrus
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 14:31

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