Germans' fears in the pandemic

The current survey on the fears of Germans shows that the serenity of the summer has given way to great worries. Does the long lockdown change the mood?

Vaccination debacle, lockdown marathon and concern about infection: The mood of German citizens in the corona pandemic threatens to tip over according to the long-term survey "The Fears of Germans". Around half of those surveyed now consider politicians to be overwhelmed, and even more fear the economic situation.

The concern of getting seriously ill or of experiencing infections in family and friends also plays a much larger role than in 2020, according to the study for R + V insurance, which was published on Thursday.

For Manfred Schmidt, political scientist at the University of Heidelberg, these results do not reflect a diffuse "German fear", but realism. "I would not see the acute major crisis yet, but it is noticeably worsening," he says.

The pandemic feeling barometer

The survey "The Fears of the Germans" has been running for around 30 years. Scientists consider the representative study to be a small seismograph of sensitivities relating to politics, the economy, family and health, primarily because of its long-term values. On January 25th and 26th, pollsters again surveyed around 1,000 adults between the ages of 16 and 75 for an interim result. The results can be compared with interviews from last spring and summer - like a pandemic emotional barometer.

Shifts cannot be overlooked. Last summer, German citizens were mainly concerned about their prosperity and stayed rather cool when it came to the subject of contagion. Only a third feared an infection, now with 48 percent it is almost half. The new question is whether it would be frightening if more and more people ignored the lockdown rules. "Yes", say 60 percent of those questioned. It's the highest score on this poll.

"Something has tilted"

"There is some evidence that this majority of 60 percent is still willing to go along with the rules," says scientist Schmidt, who has been analyzing the fears survey for around 20 years. "That is a great asset in the fight against corona." But it is also decisive how political measures are received by the population, especially now in the lockdown and in the ongoing vaccination debate. "Something has tipped over there," says Schmidt. "The matter has become closer for politics."

In the summer, there was largely satisfaction with the pandemic management. For only 40 percent of those surveyed, politicians seemed overwhelmed at the time. For Germany on the long-term fear index of the survey, this is the lowest value since the turn of the millennium - and quite astonishing for the circumstances in the first year of the pandemic. For Schmidt, the surprising result also signaled appreciation for the political work in the Corona crisis.

But now more than half of the interviewees (54 percent) worry that politicians are overwhelmed by their tasks. These are not yet the top values ​​of the fear index, which on this point jumped to a whopping 65 percent after immigration in 2015. For Schmidt, the new, increased value nevertheless reflects a decline in confidence in politics - a warning signal.

Political scientist: Politicians should admit mistakes

For the scientist, for example, it was a fundamental mistake to move vaccine procurement to the EU level. "The EU is a snail and not a greyhound," he stressed. National strategies worked better. He misses the clear admission of mistakes from which one can learn. "This messing around with both the European Union and the Federal Minister of Health and the Chancellor is very unusual and very inappropriate," he says. There are consequences.

In this context, Schmidt believes Angela Merkel's (CDU) repeated promises that anyone who wants will receive a vaccination offer by September 21st will be a lot of poker. What if that doesn't work out with all the uncertainties? "Then a resource that is central will run out: the confidence of voters in politics," says the political scientist. A big difference to 2020 is the new year of the super election with temptations for political profiling. "That won't be good for the mood," he speculates. Merkel's vaccination deadline is shortly before the general election on September 26th.

For Schmidt, however, the new survey also shows that German citizens registered reality very reliably. For example on the subject of economics. Concern that the situation in Germany will worsen is almost equally high in both lockdowns at 58 and 59 percent. Only the fear of the financial market crisis had driven the fear index in this area over 60 percent more than ten years ago.

We are still a long way from the great crisis

Concern about personal affliction such as unemployment remains limited in comparison. Only a fifth of those surveyed (21 percent) fear it at the moment - that is even less than in the first lockdown (24 percent). For Schmidt, the big stabilizers are crisis management in economic, financial and social policy with bridging aid and short-time work. "The burden of the crisis is very concentrated," he explains. For example, it affects the hospitality and travel industries, a total of 20 to 25 percent of the population. "Hardly anything has changed in the other two-thirds."

The pandemic, with all its unreasonable expectations, has not yet led to a democratic crisis - despite some models, says Schmidt. Restrictions on fundamental rights are usually not interpreted from a legal point of view, but rather pragmatically
Restaurant, to the stadium or to grandma? The executive burdens hardly seem to have a negative impact either. But it is also not a time without a parliament.

"The willingness of citizens to support has decreased, but it shouldn't be dramatized," the scientist summarizes the survey. The values ​​are still manageable. "We are some way away from a major crisis. So politics still has a chance."