Support for Sinterklaas character Zwarte Piet in his traditional blackface form is dwindling among the Netherlands public, according to a poll of nearly 2,300 people by I&O Research. Four years ago, 65 percent of Dutch wanted Zwarte Piet to remain in his blackface form. This year it is 39 percent, NOS reports.

According to the researchers, the biggest shift in opinion happened among older Dutch over the past years. In 2018, 62 percent of people over the age of 65 were in favor of blackface Zwarte Piet, now that is 44 percent. Support also declined among people between the ages of 50 and 65, though this group more often wants gradual changes than the younger age groups.

In the past, it was mainly people with a higher education that wanted Zwarte Piet to lose his racial stereotypes. But a shift can now also be seen among people with lower levels of education, the researchers found. In 2018, over two thirds of people with a low level of education wanted Piet to stay in his blackface form, now it’s half. Among people with a secondary education, support for blackface Zwarte Piet decreased from 58 percent to 45 percent.

A survey by the Volkskrant among over 300 primary schools across the country also showed that most schools will not have blackface Zwarte Piet at their Sinterklaas celebrations this week. 88 percent of primary schools will have no blackface this year, 54 percent of them for the first time.

The I&O researchers also polled Netherlands residents on their political preferences. As can be expected, the vast majority of voters for far-right parties PVV and FvD are in favor of blackface Zwarte Piet, while the vast majority of voters for left-wing parties PvdA, GroenLinks and PvdD are against. A majority of D66 voters is also against. Surprisingly, the two super-Christian parties are on both sides of the spectrum, with a majority of SGP voters being for blackface Zwarte Piet and a majority of ChristenUnie voters being against. Among voters for SP, CDA and VVD, just over half want to change Zwarte Piet’s appearance.

The researchers asked respondents whether they were planning Sinterklaas celebrations given the coronavirus pandemic. Just over 40 percent said they will celebrate Sitnerklaas this weekend, though many said their parties will be on a smaller scale than in previous years.


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