First results from Corona Ad hoc survey: peoples' information sources in the crisis

CA-SG researcher Prof. Oliver Quiring and his team conducted an ad hoc survey on peoples’ information sources in times of the crisis. First results indicate that people rely on a mix of very diverse sources to obtain information on the pandemic: In the first days after the outbreak, people intensively used established news media, but also information shared by private contacts and official sources such as research institutions and public authorities. Moreover, the sources people rely on in the corona crisis significantly impacted peoples’ sense of community in the crisis, indicating that the way how information on the pandemic is presented considerably impacts the social cohesion in society.

We summarize the main results as follows:

  • At the height of the crisis at the end of March, a very high demand for information became apparent, with a triad of public broadcasting, private contacts and official information largely determining the use of information
  • Three weeks later, there are signs of a normalisation of information needs. Overall, the use of information is declining, with the largest decreases being recorded for all non-journalistic sources, above all for private contacts.
  • Overall impression of the situation: unagitated, little panic; instead, a strong sense of community
  • But: both in terms of the impression of public debate and in terms of the sense of community and concern, it made a difference which information sources were used. While the use of public broadcasting and local/regional newspapers left a constructive impression of the debate and contributed to a stronger sense of community, the use of private broadcasting and tabloid newspapers as well as private news from friends on social media tended to raise concerns.
  • There were also indications of conflict lines in society: The perspectives drifted apart, especially between different age groups, income groups and party supporters.

See the project website for details.

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