Multidisciplinary Center for Infectious Diseases (MCID)

Divided pandemic society and Public Health. Polarization in the Covid-19 pandemic response in Switzerland

Lead applicant: Prof. Dr. Annika Frahsa (Cluster: Society and Law)

Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

Co-Applicant: Prof. Dr. Markus Freitag (Cluster: Society and Law)

Institiute of Political Science

Co-Applicant: Prof. Dr. med. Nicola Low (Cluster: Epidemiology)

Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

The high numbers of cases and deaths from Covid-19 in Switzerland since February 2020 has shown many areas in which improvements in the response to a new pandemic threat are needed. Particularly striking is that the Swiss society appears to have been divided into strongly contrasting camps as the pandemic progressed. The manifold divides in Covid-19 risk perceptions, policy preferences, and preferences for protective behaviours pose a potential challenge for practitioners and policy makers tasked with reducing the spread of Covid-19 now and potential future pandemics. This project uses an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on the fields of political science and public health (community health and epidemiology) and quantitative and qualitative research methods, to investigate:

  • How is polarization linked to political attitudes and behaviour?
  • What is the relationship between polarization and protective health behaviour?
  • How is polarization related to COVID-19 care and health outcome patterns?

By this investigation, the project aims to:

  1. develop and validate instruments to measure affective polarisation in support for Covid-19 preventive measures in the Swiss context;
  2. research affective polarisation in marginalized communities, particularly from immigrant or ethnic minority communities;
  3. determine the extent to which affective polarisation is associated with political positions, health-related behaviours and health outcomes;
  4. synthesize and integrate the knowledge gained to develop policy and practice recommendations

With the findings from this interdisciplinary research, the planned project aims to develop solutions that will make it possible to mitigate the consequences of polarization during a potential next pandemic in Switzerland.