Can the Big Data Predict the 2017 Dutch General Election?

Geert Wilders the leader of the PVV party in the Netherlands
Geert Wilders the leader of the PVV party in the Netherlands

In March 15, 2017, the Dutch will go to cast their votes to elect 150 representatives in the lower chamber (House of Representatives) of the Dutch parliament in a proportional representation manner. Each party will get number of seats that are equivalent to the number of votes it got nation-wide. Due to the presence of multi-party system, no party was able to gather the necessary 75 seats to form the government alone, instead coalitions were always the case. Currently, there are 28 parties running for the election, but only 11 of them holds seats in the house. The analysis will focus on these 11 parties since the others did not get the enough attention through their campaigns within the Netherlands.

The last government was formed through a coalition between the centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (in Dutch: Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD) and the socially democratic Labour Party (in Dutch: Partij van de Arbeid, PvdA). According to the last polls conducted by Peil, VVD enjoys a vote share which would qualify it for 27 seats (down from 40 seats) and PvdA is suffering a huge drop down from 38 (in 2012) to 9 seats now. The Party for Freedom (in Dutch: Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV) is expecting 24 seats under the leadership of Mr. Geert Wilders who is a fervent opponent of immigration, European Union, and Muslims. Couple of days ago, a crisis broke between Netherland and Turkey.

Far but connected to the election, the Turkish foreign affairs minister flew to Netherlands to lead Turkish rallies to support the proposed Turkish constitution amendments. The Dutch government declined the landing permission of the foreign minister and even prevented a Turkish family and social policies minister, Ms. Kaya, from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam. It is noteworthy that the reaction of both of the VVD and the PVV barring and carefully escalating the crisis increased the seats from 24 to 27 for the VVD and from 22 to 24 seats for the PVV.

The left Socialist Party (in Dutch: Socialistische Partij, SP) and the socio-liberal Democrats 66 party (in Dutch: Democraten 66, D66) are forecasted to get 14 and 16 seats respectively.

Polls results by Peil for the 2017 Dutch general election
Polls results by Peil for the 2017 Dutch general election

While Christian Democratic Appeal (in Dutch: Christen-Democratisch Appèl, CDA) has consistently increased its seats from 13 seats in 2012 to 21 nowadays. According to the polls, the Green party or Left (in Dutch: GroenLinks, GL) is progressing to impressive 19 seats from only 4 in 2012. And the Christian Union (in Dutch: ChristenUnie, CU) stagnated at 5 seats from 2012 and till the latest polls.

Right now in 2017, the confidence in election polls is shaking from several unsuccessful predictions of major political events around the world, so it is noteworthy to investigate the use of some other methodology that may provide useful insights into the electors’ preferences.

The Google Trends will be used as a big data mining application to discover the voters’ choices away from formal and structural polls. The concept is centralized on sampling billions of the search activities of the people within Netherlands instead of just polls that only depends on few thousands of people if not less.

In the coming two graphs, the aforementioned parties were evaluated during the last year (March 2016-2017). The first graph will compare the VVD, CDA, PVV, PvdA, and GroenLinks. The second one is comparing the same group but with replacing the PvdA with D66. The CU party is excluded since it only possess 5 seats.

Google Trends showing the dutch parties VVD, PVV, CDA, PvdA, GroenLinks
Google Trends showing the dutch parties VVD, PVV, CDA, PvdA, GroenLinks

The above chart represent the relative interest of the Dutch when searching for their political parties in the internet. For example, for every 23 searches for CDA, there were 8 for each of VVD and PVV, 6 for each of PvdA and GroenLinks (Green party).

In the coming chart, the D66 was used instead of the PvdA as follows:

Google Trends showing the dutch parties VVD, PVV, CDA, D66, GroenLinks
Google Trends showing the dutch parties VVD, PVV, CDA, D66, GroenLinks

The results were nearly the same except that the relative weight of the D66 is 7 compared to the 6 of the Pvda. Therefore, and according to the internet interest, the Dutch were interested in the parties as follows:

  1. CDA
  2. VVD / PVV
  3. D66
  4. PvdA / GroenLinks

It is important that the results for the SP was always negligible! It is interesting to see that the big data is contradicting the conducted polls. For example, the CDA is the sixth in the polls while it is the first using Google Trends and its big data techniques. Somehow both of the big data and the polls show that VVD and PVV are nearly on par. the largest discrepancy is that the big data shows that there is no interest in the SP, nevertheless, the polls confirm that it would get at least 14 seats! The CDA is a relatively centrist party with slight inclination to the right. The CDA may form a coalition with VVD or PVV but it is hard to have both, since the voters of VVD had concerns with forming government with the far-right PVV under Mr. Wilders’ leadership.

If the actual results corroborated the big data predictions, the big data will be a golden mine for any future predictions.

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