This project investigates two questions: First, which groups do people in Germany consider responsible for the spread of the Corona virus? Second, do respondents’ personal characteristics, municipality traits and the current media discussion help predict which groups are held responsible? To answer these questions, the project uses data from an ongoing cross-sectional, representative survey conducted by WZB's MAD research unit (Migration and Diversity, Berlin Social Science Center). This survey includes an open-ended question, which asks respondents to name up to three groups they deem responsible for the spread of the pandemic.
Overall, most responses fell into the five categories of "deviants", "actives", "travelers", "age groups" and "ethnic groups". "Travelers" were the most frequently named category, even before "ethnic groups", whose mention decreased over time. While at the beginning of the pandemic, ethnic group mentions mainly referred to "Chinese", the focus shifted to "immigrants" over the summer, probably due to reports on Corona virus infections among harvest and meat plant workers. Generally, the naming of groups didn't change in response to surges in infection rates.
Whereas numerous respondents did name specific groups, others refused to do so (12%), responding, for example, that "the virus affects everyone" or that "no specific groups" could be named. Some survey participants even explicitly criticized the group thinking that the question imposed, responding, for example, "no discrimination please". In addition, the development of survey responses over time was rather surprising: The mention of groups was not stable but changed as the pandemic progressed.