Study series: COVID-19 and social inequality

Publication of a large-scale survey series in cooperation with the University of Konstanz

With these surveys, the University of Konstanz and Das Progressive Zentrum are contributing to a better understanding of the social and political consequences of the Corona crisis. In the studies, the researchers analyze the topics of solidarity with European neighbors, working from home, trust in politics, crisis management and the health care system.

The cooperation between the DPZ and the Cluster of Excellence at the University of Konstanz aims to develop recommendations for decision-makers in business and politics on how to counter social inequality in Germany and Europe based on scientific findings. The first contribution was  four policy papers published as part of a large-scale survey series conducted by the Konstanzer Exzellenzclusters „The Politics of Inequality“.

Debated issue of EU bonds: Will Germany show solidarity? Yes, but… 

The study entitled “Beds or Bonds? Conditional Solidarity in the coronavirus crisis” by Sebastian Koos, Junior Professor for Corporate Social Responsibility at the University of Konstanz and Dirk Leuffen,

Professor of Political Science with a focus on International Politics at the University of Konstanz examines to what extent and in what ways Europeans are prepared to support each other during the corona pandemic. The policy brief included a survey among residents in Germany that paints a mixed picture: While the willingness to show solidarity with medical supplies or medical assistance is high, there is only a limited willingness to support financial redistribution measures.

DER SPIEGEL calls the survey results “explosive” because they show that the federal government must continue to solicit approval for its crisis management policy. The editor David Böcking summarizes:

If the debate focuses solely on costs, this reduces the willingness to help, the researchers write. The medium and long-term interests of the donor side in aid should also be addressed.

– David Böcking, editor at DER SPIEGEL

In the debate magazine Social Europe the authors summarize the core results:

[The study] shows that European solidarity is conditional. Specifically, it depends on the type of need, the cost of help and, ultimately, on the perceived ‘deservingness’ of recipients.

Productive, motivated – but also partly exhausted: This is how employees see themselves in the homeoffice

For the second paper, “Working from home in the Corona-virus crisis – Towards a transformation of work environments?“, Florian Kunze, Professor of Organizational Studies at the University of Konstanz, and two of his research assistants Kilian Hampel and Sophia Zimmermann interviewed around 700 homeoffice employees several times between March and May 2020. 

Most of them stated that they perceived themselves as “motivated and productive” and that they were able to better balance work and private life. Compared to a group of “fully convinced” – one in four people could do without an office visit altogether – there are many who experienced loneliness and social isolation as well as emotional exhaustion.

Many media outlets reported on this study, including the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which summarized that the “desired model for many of those surveyed was a balanced mixture of home office and office visits”. 

Corona Restrictions: Who wants to lift them and why?

Those who call for an easing of pandemic-related restrictions often do so out of concern for society – or out of distrust of the state, as the third study by the University of Konstanz with Das Progressive Zentrum shows: “End the lockdown? Why restrictions are being lifted too fast for some and not fast enough for others“. Prof. Dr. Claudia Diehl, Professor of Microsociology at the University of Konstanz and co-speaker of the Cluster of Excellence “The Politics of Inequality”, and her research assistant Dr. Felix Wolter, asked around 4,800 people about their personal attitude towards Corona measures and possible loosening of the lockdown.

The results show that trust is more important than self-interest. The attitude towards easing pandemic-related restrictions is primarily determined by the extent to which the respondents perceive restrictions of basic rights – and less by whether someone fears economic or family consequences for themselves or society. The main issue is therefore trust in state institutions.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Welt, among others, took up the study:

Clear crisis communication is crucial for politics. […] In addition, the explanation of the corresponding cause-and-effect relationships [of governmental decisions and crisis Pandemic development] is central.

A question of polarisation: Who distrusts the health care system and the government? 

Das zuletzt erschienene Paper “Heilmittel oder Zankapfel? Vertrauen in das Gesundheitssystem während der Corona-Krise” untersucht die Wahrnehmungen der BürgerInnen zur Leistungsfähigkeit und Fairness des Gesundheitssystems und wie sehr die BürgerInnen dem Gesundheitssystem und dem Staat vertrauen.

The most recently published paper “Source of healing or bone of contention? Trust in the German healthcare system during the coronavirus crisis” examines citizens’ perceptions of the efficiency and fairness of the healthcare system and how much citizens trust the health care system and the state.

The answers are provided by Prof. Dr. Marius R. Busemeyer, political scientist and expert in social policy research. He says that party affiliation is crucial in the assessment of citizens. People who are close to the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) distrust the health care system and the information policy of the federal government far more often than people with a different political party orientation. Gender, income, age and level of education of those surveyed also play a role, albeit a lesser one. The study reveals a polarisation between a distrustful and dissatisfied minority and the majority of the rest of the population.

Media such as reported that there is “dissatisfaction” with the Federal Government’s information policy and that “only 48.2 percent” believe that the “Federal Government has informed ‘quite’ or ‘very truthfully’”. The Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland writes:

Overall, a majority of those surveyed believe that the government was poorly prepared for the pandemic.


Florian Ranft

Member of the Management Board and Head of Green New Deal
Florian Ranft is a member of the Management Board and is head of Green New Deal & Progressive Governance at Das Progressive Zentrum.
Vincent Venus was head of communications at Das Progressive Zentrum and thus responsible for communication channels, editorial work and committee coordination.

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