Huge gap Between Perception and Experienced Tensions in Dutch Society

Thomas de Beus
May 30, 2017 · 4 min read

A graphics iteration process.

In the Netherlands tensions between different groups of the population is a rising hot topic. To name a few that support this trend:

When the Central Bureau of Statistics published a population trends report: Tensions in the society and individual experiences thereof (loosely translated) I took a closer look. When I saw the charts in the report, I wanted to improve them to answer the for me important question: What is the difference between the experienced tensions in peoples’ personal surroundings and the peoples’ perception about these tensions.



At first, the chart on the left is not that bad. But we can do better when you want to guide the reader comparing the reported tensions (perception) and the experienced tensions between different groups of the population (Persons with and without a migration background, Religious groups, Poor and the Rich, High- and low-educated).

The colours in the original graph have to be improved since the data represents a sequential scale (from nothing to often), so the use of a qualitative palette is not advised. Besides, the colours seem randomly chosen and force you to look at the legend a lot. Below, you see a first version (on the left), where I:

First version

This is better but comparison is still a bit hard since the categories don’t start at the same point. With the second iteration I decided to:

Second iteration

We’re getting there but after receiving feedback and a more thoroughly investigation of the data, a third iteration was needed. The feedback entailed that the difference between reported and experienced tensions were not understandable. I therefor decided to go for perception (this term was mentioned in the original report as well) and an explanation of the difference in the intro of the graph.

Then I interviewed the data more thoroughly by asking: how was the data collected? I found out that respondents were asked in the first question about the extent to which they think there are tensions in the Netherlands between certain groups of people (perception).

Detail of last iteration.

When asking who was included in the experience part of the data, a new insight occurred. Only if the respondents answered the first question with: a lot of tensions, the researcher asked about the extent to which they experienced these tensions in their surroundings. That’s why I wanted to represent this visually and added an explanation within the intro text of the complete and final visualisation (end-product).

This is a repost and part 4 of the series Data Visualisation Redesigned for the Better.

For more redesigns and other data journalism/visualisation related articles, go to my blog:

Do you stumble upon a crappy graph? Please let me know! Cheers 🙂

Colourful Facts

Explorations in the field of journalism, data visualisation and content creation. Email at:

Thomas de Beus

Written by

Using #ddj 👨‍💻 to help tighten the gap between reality and peoples’ perception of reality to spark ⚡️ conscious citizenship 🏛 for a better shared future 🌍

Colourful Facts

Explorations in the field of journalism, data visualisation and content creation. Email at: