19 – What AfD and lateral thinkers have to do with the spread of the coronavirus in Germany

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Recently, there have been a particularly large number of corona cases in Saxony. Data on the spread of corona and voting behavior suggest that the virus is currently spreading particularly in areas with large AfD supporters. What speaks for it – and what doesn’t.

The “Tagesspiegel” from Berlin published a map of Germany a few weeks ago, on which you can compare the corona numbers and the votes for the AfD. The agreement of many regions in Germany particularly badly affected by the virus was obvious. At first glance, it was obvious that there could be a clear connection between the two factors voting behavior and corona infection rates.

The explanation could be that the AfD is the only party to largely reject the corona measures. So if their followers reject the rules and then comply less than others, that could be a factor in a higher infection rate.

Researcher Quent: No causality proven yet

The director of the Jena Institute for Democracy and Civil Society, Matthias Quent, was able to determine such a correlation in an analysis of the data – not only for Saxony, but for almost all federal states. The result was so clear that he was surprised even by it, said Quent. However, the researcher emphasized that this did not yet prove causality. There could be other factors that explain the effect – such as the population structure or the state of the health system. Quent wants to pursue these questions further.

The Federal Government Commissioner for Eastern Europe, Marco Wanderwitz (CDU), is convinced of a causal connection. The AfD largely denies Corona, he said. And if their followers then behave accordingly, it is like a gift for the virus.

A quarter of AfD supporters consider the pandemic to be a conspiracy

Further data that suggest a possible connection come from a survey commissioned by the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Accordingly, a clear majority of AfD supporters consider it likely that the corona pandemic is a conspiracy. According to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 24 percent of AfD supporters affirmed the statement that the pandemic was a “conspiracy to oppress people”. Another 41 percent of AfD supporters think that is at least likely. Supporters of other parties see the pandemic much less often as a conspiracy. Of all respondents, five percent were sure that it was a conspiracy to suppress the people, nine percent thought this was likely.

A case study by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which is close to the Greens, examined the way in which the AfD parliamentary group in Baden-Württemberg dealt with conspiracy theories relating to the corona pandemic. It turned out that the faction did not spread any conspiracy theories during the first wave in the spring. She only sharpened her rhetoric in terms of conspiracy theory when the emergence of nationwide protests against the corona measures – for example from the lateral thinking initiative – offered a “window of opportunity”, writes the author. This abrupt rhetorical change shows that the AfD parliamentary group is using conspiracy-theoretical rhetoric strategically in order to develop new target groups, it said.

Similar effect found in the USA

Researchers in the USA had already made a similar observation. In Science magazine, they explained that there is a strong correlation between attachment to a party and willingness to adhere to social distancing measures. According to this, Republican voters are less willing to forego contacts because of the corona pandemic. And that attitude has actually intensified over the months that the virus has spread.

Study: Thinking outside the box helped spread the virus

The demonstrations of the so-called lateral thinkers in November 2020 apparently contributed to the spread of the corona virus in Germany. This is shown by a study by the Leibniz Center for European Economic Research Mannheim and the Berlin Humboldt University. The scientists examined the effects of the two large rallies, which took place on November 7th and 18th in Leipzig and Berlin, on the seven-day incidence up to the end of December. The infection process in the districts from which tens of thousands of demonstrators had traveled by bus to the protests was analyzed. According to the study, the seven-day incidence there rose significantly by Christmas, in some cases by the value of 40. The research team estimates that between 16,000 and 21,000 corona infections could have been prevented if these two big “lateral thinkers” rallies were canceled would have been.

Numerous influencing factors on infection processes

It is clear that it is not just the political orientation of the residents that determines the local infection rate. In the case of Saxony, the proximity to the Czech Republic and Poland is likely to have an impact on the number of infections. In addition, the infection rate depends on the measures taken on site. Superspreading events, for example at family celebrations or outbreaks in nursing homes, also have an influence – especially in smaller places. In addition, the age structure of the population can determine the incidence of infection and the occupancy of the hospitals.

(Stand: 09.02.2021)

Further articles on the coronavirus

We have created a news blog. Given the large amount of information, this provides an overview of the most important current developments.

+ Covid-19: Current figures on the coronavirus in Germany (as of March 24)
+ Holidays: What will happen to the Easter holiday? (As of March 23)

Test and protection

+ Protection: The vaccination ordinance: who will be vaccinated first, who will be vaccinated later? (As of March 4th)
+ Vaccination appointment: how can I get vaccinated when and where? (As of March 4th)
+ Vaccinations: What is known about the side effects of vaccines (as of March 19)
+ Sick people: New findings in the search for drugs (as of March 8th)
Treatment: How does an antibody drug work and when does it make sense? (As of February 26th)

Contagion and Transmission

+ Virus variants: how dangerous are the new mutations of the coronavirus? (Status: 13.03.)
+ Opponents of infection protection measures: What AfD and lateral thinkers have to do with the spread of the coronavirus in Germany (as of 02/09)
+ Transmission: What role do aerosols play (as of January 22)
+ Excess mortality: how deadly is the coronavirus really? (Status: 13.03.)
+ Travel warning: The current list of risk areas (as of March 20)

You can also find the Dlf news on Twitter at: @DLFNews.





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AfD lateral thinkers spread coronavirus Germany

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