Corona: Study from Uni Mannheim – How Germany copes with the crisis

How does everyday life go in a state of emergency and what problems does home work cause? Data on the consequences of the corona crisis is scarce, and reliable information is still lacking even about the spread of the disease caused by the virus. So far, questions about acceptance and effects of the restrictions have so far only been heard by those who complain loudly.

Mannheim-based data scientist Annelies Blom and her team want to change this – and with their population-representative corona study they draw a comprehensive picture of how Germans react to the pandemic and what consequences the virus has for their everyday lives.

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Lisa Kratschmann / University of Mannheim

Annelies Blom is Professor of Data Sciences at the University of Mannheim and is responsible for the Corona study. She heads the German Internet Panel (GIP), which as part of the Collaborative Research Center "Political Economy of Reforms" of the German Research Foundation records individual attitudes and preferences in political and economic decision-making processes.

Despite the hype surrounding the home office, more than half of Germans therefore continue to work regularly. A lot of people accept the cancellation of soccer games and other events. But there are limits to understanding the Corona measures. But more on that later. Researchers want to provide information for decision-makers In order to be able to classify the results, one must first understand how the scientists in the Collaborative Research Center "Political Economy of Reforms" work at the University of Mannheim. They use their meaningful German Internet Panel (GIP) and question hundreds of the more than 4000 GIP participants in total about how they are dealing with the crisis.

The focus of the work is less on a possible comprehensive publication in a few years; instead, the experts publish a report every day on the pulse of society at Corona times. In this case, they can hardly rely on theories or previous knowledge from other studies – there is no blueprint for what such a situation does to a society. "We try to provide decision-makers with information so that they can act properly," says the researcher Blom, who heads the project. The first results are already available – and the way Germans deal with the crisis is fluctuating.

For example, on the subject of "meeting with friends": According to the Mannheim researchers, the frequency with which people still meet with friends or work colleagues changes every day. Before the Corona measures, it was only every sixth person who did not meet with others at least once within a week, most recently 69 percent stated that they had completely stopped these contacts. From week to week there were more. Blom: "On the one hand, it is nice that people observe the guidelines, but as a social researcher, I am also a little worried because such a quarantine situation can have negative consequences for mental and physical health."

With his reports, the interdisciplinary team of researchers consisting of data scientists, economists, sociologists and political scientists depicts what is going on in people's homes. "This is followed by a lot of questions: How is it, financially and mentally, for those who are now on short-time work, who are free, work longer shifts in the supermarket than before or do home offices and still have to look after children," explains Blom.

The answers to these questions will gradually come up, but the scientists can measure some changes in everyday working life right from the start of the corona measures. For example, they found that a surprising number of people still work at their local employers, both employees and self-employed: the proportion of those who are in the home office is currently just over 21 percent. "But we can also see that 89 percent of people with children now look after them in their own households. In this way, the compatibility of family and work is not entirely trivial." In order to get quick but reliable results, the researchers have their sample in divided into eight parts – with seven parts being surveyed on each of the seven days of the week. The eighth part is intended to serve as a control group. "We collect new data every day and evaluate it the next working day," says Blom. The professor and her team work from home. On average, around 500 people take part in the study every day.

Annelies Blom is confident that her team will be able to provide answers to some tricky questions over the next few days and weeks. It becomes difficult for scientists, for example, if they want to find out details about the distance rules that apply in the individual federal states. For questions about these rules, many people should have a "desired answer" in their head and may not answer completely impartially. Many consider exit restrictions unreasonable. But there are differences: While certain measures, such as the ban on events, receive very high approval ratings, the situation is different with a curfew that has not yet existed across the board. "So far, only 41 percent of the population thinks it is appropriate," says Blom – despite the danger of the virus. "But that could also change with the actual introduction of the measure. So if it were decided that a general curfew was necessary, the population could change their minds about it and then consider it appropriate."

At least that should not be due to the fear of the virus among the population. According to the researchers, this has not increased since the beginning of the crisis. However, data scientist Blom admits that "there is no comparison to the time before Corona." In their future surveys, the researchers want to determine, among other things, whether risk groups are now more afraid of the disease.
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