| Erfurt Laboratory for Empirical Research, Philosophische Fakultät, SPF Wissen. Räume. Medien., Forschung

Saturated with corona information?

Within the framework of the project "Coronavirus-related Crisis Communication, Information Seeking and Media Effects (CoreCrisis)", the team around Prof. Dr. Constanze Rossmann, Professor of Communication Science with a focus on Social Communication at the University of Erfurt, is currently working on the interplay between official, media and social media communication and the information behaviour of doctors and the population in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

In order to investigate information behaviour, factors influencing the search for information and their effects on risk perception, knowledge and behaviour, a two-way panel survey of German citizens* aged 18 and over is currently being conducted. More than 1000 people are being interviewed online at two points in time in order to draw causal conclusions about their information behaviour and media effects. The results of the second survey wave are now available:

In a global health crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic, it is particularly important for the population to be able to obtain the necessary information. The first survey wave of the CoreCrisis project provided results on the channels through which certain population groups can best be reached during the early phase of such a crisis (Rossmann et al., 2020). In the meantime, the state of emergency has been going on for some time and the question arises as to how people have adapted their information behaviour to the situation.

Did the population inform themselves differently about the corona virus in April than in the early phase of the corona crisis in March? Did knowledge, risk perception, emotional reactions and information needs change over time? Answers to these questions are provided by the results of the second wave of CoreCrisis surveys. For this purpose, 1,080 German citizens* who had already taken part in the first survey wave between 23 and 31 March 2020 were again surveyed online between 15 and 21 April 2020. The results of the survey provide recommendations for key communicators and policymakers to continue to provide the population with the best possible information about codes of conduct, new findings and legal requirements in the context of the coronavirus.

The most important findings at a glance:

  • The search for information, emotional reactions and the perception of risk among the respondents are flattened. They follow the information more superficially overall.
  • This can also be seen in the typology of information searches: While in the first wave the majority of cases could still be assigned to the so-called norm oriented television users, in wave 2 the so-called critical information avoiders dominated.
  • Perceived knowledge has increased in comparison to that in March. The impression of being saturated with information has become stronger.
  • Actual knowledge has not changed over time. People are well informed about the signs of illness, the consequences of illness and washing their hands as protection against infection.
  • The unwarranted warning about ibuprofen and the initial discussion about masks have left people feeling very insecure. Here, respondents found it particularly difficult to identify incorrect information as such.
  • It can be seen as understandable, but possibly problematic, that the risk perception in April has decreased compared to March. The consequences of illness from COVID-19 were assessed as less severe and the probability of infection as lower.
  • With regard to the willingness to use a tracing app, opinions differ: most people do not fundamentally reject the use of such an app. Nevertheless, there are apparently still reservations that need to be addressed by politicians.
  • Preventive measures, such as minimum distance, hand disinfection or contact ban, were adhered to less frequently by the interviewees than they were at the time of the first survey.

This leads to the following conclusions:

  •  A habituation effect has set in during the Corona pandemic in terms of information search, information processing and emotional reactions to reporting.
  • Citizens feel saturated with information. Among other things, this habituation was associated with a lower risk perception.
  • The media and politicians should take timely countermeasures to prevent risk perception from falling even further.
  •  At the same time, people should not be overloaded with too much and complex information so that they remain receptive to important messages.
  • False information should be corrected in a more sustainable way in order to prevent uncertainties such as those that arose with the topics of protective masks and ibuprofen.

For more detailed information, please refer to our overview sheet. (only in German)