For our graduation studio “We the people – Democracy, Architecture and the City”, we organized a series of workshops and lectures from professionals in the field. For the first session we invited Josse de Voogd – an independent researcher on electoral geography – who gave us a fresh, new perspective on the relation between voting behavior and the built environment:
The electoral map of the Netherlands shows a multi-colored mosaic of different regions and neighbourhoods with their specific voting behaviour. Although the Netherlands is an egalitarian country, there is a remarkable segregation when it comes to voting behaviour and to issues like lifestyle and education. The planned nature of Dutch urbanism leads to clearly recognizable areas that attract specific people. For example, almost every city has a nineteenth-century ring around the old core and almost everywhere these gentrified quarters, with their façade plants, hip cafés and carrier bikes, are the strongholds of the green and social liberal parties. Simultaneously, shrinking regions in the periphery of the country and declining earlier postwar neighbourhoods are the breeding grounds for right- and leftwing populism.
The pattern is not static, people move to places they can afford, and above all, to places they like. Living in the central city is getting more popular for some, while others prefer to live in villages or on the countryside. This development means that the intermediate suburbs, built on large scale between 1950 and 1990, with few services and a weak identity, are losing popularity. They suffer from social decline and are changing their voting preference. It are primarily the affluent ‘blue’ (liberal right) voters that move to newer areas, while the social degradation of neighbourhoods leads to more populist votes. Urban planning can influence all these patterns and developments. Making neighbourhoods more attractive and creating a more diverse housing stock can keep the social-climbers within the area.