The Dutch are a little more optimistic about the future than last year, especially about life in general and social services such as healthcare, education and safety. Confidence in financial institutions has also increased and we see a small, but significant, increase in confidence in strangers, the military and political parties. This is evident from the annual Hope Barometer survey conducted by the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organisation (EHERO) at Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Institute of Leadership and Social Ethics (ILSE), a research institute of the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Leuven. The research is part of our project Driven by Hope.
In the Hope Barometer, hope is defined as a desire for improvement, for which we are willing to act, but which we are never entirely sure we can achieve. It is precisely this uncertainty that distinguishes hope from optimism and makes hope an important motive. For as long as we are not sure whether we will get what we want, we remain committed. So hope can also be a powerful instrument for social change. It is therefore essential to have insight into how hopeful we feel. But because hope consists of different dimensions of our humanity – desires, beliefs and behavior – it cannot be measured unequivocally or simply. The hope barometer tries to map out these aspects as well as possible. The measurement results can be used by policymakers and administrators to give direction to change processes and policy.
Dutch moderately hopeful
The measurement of the Hope Barometer 2019 shows that, as in 2018, the Dutch are moderately hopeful and score a 6.3. At the beginning of 2018 the score was still 6.1 and compared to the end of 2018 a number of significant changes have been observed:
1) The score on expectations increased from 4.9 to 5.1: this means that in 2019 the Dutch had slightly more positive expectations about their lives in general and more positive expectations about the future of healthcare, education, safety and society as a whole. Their social and personal expectations largely determine how they behave. Positive expectations encourage action, for example, to invest in a company or education or to contribute to better healthcare or education.
2) Another increase compared to 2018 is the score on trust, which has increased from 5.7 to 5.9. People have the most confidence in their families and neighbors. In terms of trust in social institutions, the local police score the highest with a 6.5, but political parties and politicians score a 4.7. Trust plays an important role in the Hope Barometer, because the hope for a society to develop decreases sharply when people have little faith in social institutions such as the government, the legal system or the police.
These changes may seem small, but they are statistically significant, which makes it possible to say that the Dutch population is a little more hopeful and has a little more confidence.
Quarter of the Dutch population not hopeful
Despite the increases mentioned above, a sizable group of Dutch people is not hopeful. 27% of the Dutch score lower than a 5.5 on the hope index. This mainly concerns people of middle age, low-income households, the less educated, and people who are often lonely or in poor health. This year, for the first time, the relationship between hope and inclusiveness was also evaluated. It turns out that people who do not feel involved in society are also less hopeful. We see the same score (5.5) among people who feel they cannot participate in society, feel that society is unfair, feel discriminated against, have few social contacts or have limited finances. This applies to 1 in 10 Dutch people.
Hope and the future
People who score low on the hope index consider it less important to help others, do less for their community, do fewer things for their neighbors and recycle less. By committing to a more inclusive society and by increasing tolerance, people will see their future in a more positive light, which will make them more inclined to commit themselves to society and to act in the interest of others.
The Institute of Leadership and Social Ethics was founded in 2008 at the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, to research how Christian leadership and Christian ethics can contribute to a just and lasting world.