Support for Zwarte Piet drops significantly, new survey finds

Support for Zwarte Piet has continued to decline throughout the Netherlands, the latest survey by I&O Research finds. 

The research firm carries out surveys on the matter of Zwarte Piet every two years in the Netherlands. In this year’s survey of almost 2,300 Dutch people, the polls have shown a significant drop for support of Zwarte Piet’s traditional appearance.

The percentage of people in favour of Zwarte Piet maintaining the black face makeup in 2020 is now 39%. Four years ago, this percentage was much higher at 65%.

A divisive topic

The Zwarte Piet debate in the Netherlands has been topical for quite a few years now. There are many who believe that Zwarte Piet embodies a racist colonial hangover, whilst others will argue that the figure is part of a harmless children’s tradition.

In spite of those who see Zwarte Piet as harmless, images of the figure have been banned from social media platforms such as Facebook and books depicting the character have been removed from Dutch public libraries.

Change the Piet’s appearance

One solution to the issue of Zwarte Piet has been to introduce alternative Pieten such as Sootie Piet or Grey Piet. Some alternatives have been met with more success than others.

I&O Researches survey found that the number of people who would be in favour of alternative Pieten — such as Sootie Piet — has increased, with the percentages rising from 44% to 50%, half of all Dutchies.

Age groups that saw the most drastic change in regards to alternative Zwarte Pieten, were those in the 50-64 and over 65’s category.

In 2018, 62% of over 65-year-olds were in favour of Zwarte Pieten with black face paint. In 2020, this has dropped to 44%. Similarly, among those between 50-64, support for black face Zwarte Piet dropped from 53% to 38%.

What do you think of the findings of this survey? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Feature Image:Image: Ziko van Dijk/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0


Sarah O'Leary
Sarah O'Leary
Sarah originally arrived in the Netherlands due to an inability to make her own decisions — she was simply told by her mother to choose the Netherlands for Erasmus. Life here has been challenging (have you heard the language) but brilliant for Sarah, and she loves to write about it. When Sarah is not acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her sitting in a corner of Leiden with a coffee, trying to sound witty.


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