Covid protests: Anyone who expresses understanding is open to conspiracy theories


Scientists see a significant risk of further political radicalization of the corona protests. This emerges from a study published on Wednesday by the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) on the mobilization potential of the protests.

“Those who express understanding for the protests are at the same time more open to conspiracy ideologies,” said Edgar Grande, the founding director of the Center for Civil Society Research at the WZB.

What strength do the “lateral thinkers” protests have?

The study is based on a survey of more than 5000 people between June and November 2020. According to the Science Center, it provides a comprehensive overview for the first time of the extent and in which social groups the protests against the state corona measures were popular and supporters found. The study thus provides empirically reliable statements about the actual strength of the protests.

According to the WZB, the results showed a considerable and stable mobilization potential. Every tenth respondent was ready to take part in actions against the Corona policy or had already done so. One in five respondents expressed great or even very great sympathy for the protests.

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Many “protest understanders” see themselves in the political center

More than 60 percent of the “protest understanders” positioned themselves in the political center. These respondents hardly differed from those who showed no understanding of the Corona protest.

The scientists rated it as conspicuous, however, that the extreme fringes in the group of “protest understanders” are significantly stronger: 12.5 percent of those questioned placed themselves on the extreme fringes of the ideological spectrum, the greater part (7.5 percent) on the far-right fringe.

On average, according to the survey, a quarter of “protest understanders” would vote for the AfD. But more than a third (almost 35 percent) would not vote for any of the parties represented in the Bundestag. Taken together, two thirds of the anti-corona mobilization potential in November 2020 consisted of parts of this “neglected middle” and supporters of the AfD.

Distrust of the federal government

The “protest understanders” are united by a strong mistrust of the federal government and concerns about restrictions on freedom. “Both form the political basis of the corona protests,” explained Swen Hutter, Lichtenberg Professor in Political Sociology at the Free University of Berlin and Deputy Director of the Center for Civil Society Research at the WZB.

With the increasing importance of the so-called lateral thinkers in the corona protest, according to the study, there was a shift to the right in the mobilization potential last summer. While the understanding of the protest in the radical left fell from 21.5 percent in June / July to 8.2 percent in August after the first wave of protests, support among respondents with a radical right rose from a good 30 to 40 percent.

Because of the great importance of conspiracy theories, the researchers also attribute considerable potential for radicalization to the corona protest. Around 15 percent of the “protest understanders” therefore unreservedly believe the New Right’s central conspiracy story of the supposedly planned “great exchange” of the majority of the population, 40 percent believe it has a certain credibility. In contrast, almost 70 percent of those surveyed with little or no understanding of the protests did not believe conspiracy theories.


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Covid protests expresses understanding open conspiracy theories


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