Debate Den Uyl and Wiegel on television (Peters, Hans / Anefo, 1977)
Debate Den Uyl and Wiegel on television (Peters, Hans / Anefo, 1977)

Subproject The Voice of the People: Netherlands

1 September 2020 until 31 August 2023
Project member(s)
Ploeg, S.J. (Solange)
Project type

In this subproject of The Voice of the People, Solange Ploeg explores the articulation, mediatisation and construction of popular expectations of democracy in postwar Netherlands with a focus on the years between 1945 and the early 1980s. At the heart of the investigation are a range of communicative practices and media platforms through which the voice of the people entered the public sphere: newspapers that commissioned and published opinion polls and letters to the editor, radio, and television, which early on experimented with formats in which citizens were given the opportunity to speak their minds on the political issues of the day.

First of all, the subproject offers an analysis of what ordinary citizens expected from politicians and the political system and how they imagined their own role in the postwar political order.

Second, Solange investigates the role played by the mass media – newspapers, radio and television – in mediating and constructing popular expectations and perceptions of democracy. Paying attention to the introduction of a range of new formats – such as voxpops and discussion programmes – Solange uses the CLARIAH MediaSuite and the archives of major newspapers and broadcasting organisations to analyse both the content of popular expectations of democracy and how journalists reflected on their role in offering a platform for the political opinions of ordinary citizens.

Finally, the subproject also offers an analysis of the role played by ‘experts’, particularly social scientists and pollsters, in conceptualizing and framing the relationship between ordinary citizens and the political system. These experts played a prominent role in the public debate about postwar democracy thanks to the stage offered to them by the mass media. How did they make sense of abstract notions like ‘the people’ and ‘democratic citizenship’? Which assumptions about popular expectations and knowledge of politics lay behind their discussions of postwar democracy and political representation?



  • Gerda Henkel Foundation