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ESRA 2023 Glance Program

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New Social Norms in Times of Covid-19: Challenges for Survey Research 2

Session Organisers Dr Ivar Krumpal (University of Leipzig)
Professor Peter Kriwy (Chemnitz University of Technology)
TimeTuesday 18 July, 14:00 - 15:30
Room U6-03

In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic occurred and continues in a degraded form. It is clear that Covid-19 and how we deal with it is changing society. New social norms and collective good problems have emerged. For example, wearing face masks, getting vaccinated, self-reporting infections using Corona apps or adhering to lockdown norms can be seen as contributions to the collective good “public health”. Compliance with these norms are a collective good problem. Monitoring collective action as well as individual behavior and attitudes has confronted the survey discipline with new challenges.

This session aims at presenting and discussing current survey research on social norms and values influencing our behavior and attitudes in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. We want to discuss best practices, new challenges and innovative designs focusing on methodological as well as substantive problems. We invite submissions that deal with these problems and/or present potential solutions. In particular, we are interested in studies that (1) deal with substantive problems and applications of survey research, such as attitudes towards vaccination, norm compliance, deviant behavior, ethical orientations in regards to triage or conspiracy beliefs; (2) present current empirical research focusing on public opinion in regards to the emergence of new social norms, values and the production of collective goods in times of Covid-19; (3) deal with methodological problems such as nonresponse, social desirability bias or sampling issues presenting innovative designs and solutions addressing these problems; (4) present experimental survey research (e.g. factorial surveys, choice experiments, field experiments) and statistical procedures to analyze such data (e.g. conjoint analysis); (5) integrate innovative experimental designs in well-established, large-scale population surveys of the general population; (6) discuss best practices in surveying social norms.

Keywords: Social norms; social desirability bias; nonresponse bias; factorial surveys; choice experiments


Conflictual values and behaviours of Italians during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Mr Rosario Aprile (Sapienza University of Rome - Department of Communication and Social Research) - Presenting Author
Professor Marco Palmieri (Sapienza University of Rome)

The propensity to have self or others-oriented values and behaviours shapes the relationship between the individual and the society. When the others-orientation prevails, individuals do something for the community's benefit, intending the community as the set of mechanisms and processes that push the individuals to identify themselves and others as members of the same ensemble (Berti, 2005). However, in contemporary societies, subjectivity has become so radical that self-orientated value leads individuals not to consider the others-orientation as the priority (Cesareo, Vaccarini, 2006; Bauman, 2008). Has Covid-19 changed it? One CATI survey (size: 1062) was conducted in April 2020, during the first Italian national lockdown, to answer this question empirically. The results show that the self and others-orientated values are more in conflict than before the pandemic.
What happens on the plane of behaviours? One mixed-modes survey (size: 800) was conducted in June 2020 in Italy, to observe the behavioural others-orientation through the case study of Immuni. The contact tracing app developed by the Italian government to tackle the virus required the voluntary download of 60-70% Italian population. Unfortunately, this goal was not achieved. As well as analysing the reasons for the Immuni failure, the second survey's results highlight that the fear of personal privacy violation has prevailed over the needs of collectivity, prioritising self-orientation at the expense of the community's well-being.
In conclusion, the two surveys’ results show that the pandemic impacted deeply the already precarious relationship between the self and the others, making these two polarities even more conflictual in times of crisis, both in the plane of values and behaviours.

The Dynamics of Emancipative Values Orientations during the COVID-19 Pandemics in Russia: Evidence from Three Waves of the Values in Crisis Survey

Dr Viyaleta Korsunava (National Research University Higher School of Economics)
Dr Boris Sokolov (National Research University Higher School of Economics) - Presenting Author

This study explores the dynamics of emancipative value orientations (EVs) in Russia throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. For this purpose, we leverage the data from three waves of the Values in Crisis (ViC) survey, an international longitudinal study of the societal effects of the pandemic.
Despite the considerable impact that the pandemic has had on Russian society (by causing up to 1,000,000 million excess deaths and increasing social tension, provoked by such issues as the lockdown and other restrictive measures and especially the vaccination campaign), we don't find any substantial decline in EVs among our samples. Moreover, composite indices, based on raw scores, indicate a slight increase in the sample means of the Choice component of EVs. The opposite trend is observed for the Equality component, but the magnitude of that negative change is almost negligible. A more sophisticated approach involving confirmatory factor analysis and latent growth curve modeling returns essentially the same results. The analysis of mean trajectories in various socio-demographic groups also suggests the stability of EVs during the pandemic.
Within-individual variability is more notable, but still not especially large and often inconsistent across waves (individual value change often occurs in different directions between consecutive waves). Such indicators of the pandemic experience as (1) encountering the disease personally or in the family; (2) losing а job/business, or (3) anxiety, do not have any substantial effect on either choice or equality values in any wave. Overall, our results suggest that emancipative orientations will likely remain quite stable throughout the pandemic among Russians, as one might expect from the Inglehart-Welzel tradition of theorizing about values.

Nationalist Solidarity and Compliance in Combating Covid-19 in Egypt and Tunisia

Professor Mansoor Moaddel (University of Maryland) - Presenting Author

A crucial aspect of the problem of fighting the pandemic is sociological rather than medical technical. Why do people vary in following the advice of healthcare professionals to combat the spread of COVID-19? In trying to answer this question, Moaddel et al. (2021) analyzed the 2020 Egyptian survey data on people’s orientation toward the mitigation strategies recommended by medical authorities. This paper replicates this study using data from Tunisia and compare the results with Egypt. Across the two countries the findings were quite consistent, showing that compliance was higher among people with higher socioeconomic status, greater awareness of the pandemic, stronger adherence to liberal values, greater fear of the disease, and stronger nationalist sensibility. Men, the youth, those who denied the severity of the pandemic, and the employed were less likely to comply. A distinctive contribution of this and previous studies (Moaddel et al. 2021) is conceptualizing the pandemic as a microparasitic invasion similar to a macroparasitic aggression, provoking nationalism and nationalist liberation movements. Therefore, the public policy framed in terms of the national defense against the microparasitic invaders would be an effective strategy in inspiring and mobilizing the public to follow the advice of healthcare professionals.

Conspiracy Beliefs in Times of Covid-19: How does Authoritarianism mediate the Link between Tolerance for Ambiguity and Beliefs in Conspiracy Theories?

Mrs Almuth Lietz (DeZIM-Institut) - Presenting Author

Conspiracy beliefs have become a focus of media attention in recent years, especially since the massive spread of conspiracy beliefs during the Covid-19 pandemic. It has become clear that conspiracy beliefs are not a harmless marginal phenomenon but can rather become a challenge to social cohesion. For centuries, conspiracy theories have offered simple explanations to complex social phenomena. It is therefore not surprising that more people turn to conspiracy beliefs during a global pandemic. But why do some tend to believe in conspiracy theories, while others try to analyse and criticise complex social phenomena in a more differentiated way? A central variable in this context that can help to cope with such complexity is the tolerance for ambiguity: the ability to deal with ambiguous stimuli or situations, and the opposite of striving for simple ’black-and-white’ solutions. The ’need to explain the unexplained’ is used as an explanation for the emergence of conspiracy beliefs. The data for this study was collected within the project ’Social Cohesion in Times of Crisis: The Corona Pandemic and Anti-Asian Racism in Germany’, that included a three-wave panel study from November 2020 to June 2021. After identifying confounding variables using Directed Acyclic Graphs (DAG), random effects panel models are computed. Results show that tolerance for ambiguity has a significant negative impact on conspiracy beliefs (n=3,819). When other social psychological variables such as authoritarianism are included, the effect of tolerance for ambiguity decreases in size, but remains significant.

What have we learnt from COVID? Asking retrospective questions to study attitudinal change during the pandemic

Dr Diego Fossati (City University of Hong Kong) - Presenting Author

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about important transformations in many spheres of human activity. As most countries are lifting stringent social distancing rules and travel restrictions, the most disruptive phase of the pandemic appears to have ended. What is the legacy of this period of deep transformation in terms of how ordinary people think about normative issues such as individual freedom, the role of government, and social solidarity? Available longitudinal data may allow for accurate identification of aggregate-level attitudinal change over time but offer more limited insight about the microlevel mechanisms associated with value change, or on how individual-level and social/institutional factors interact in shaping value change.
This paper explores the usefulness of asking retrospective questions to study normative change related to the COVID-19 pandemic with the analysis of an original survey implemented on European and non-European samples. It starts by outlining a theoretical framework and possible causal mechanisms through which momentous external shocks such as pandemics may alter social norms. It then reviews the methodological literature on the subject, discussing the well-known limitations of retrospective survey research while illustrating the potential of this approach with a wide range of examples that have used retrospective survey questions to study implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research design is then presented, with a discussion of how best practices in the field could be employed to formulate retrospective survey questions in the context of the pandemic. The empirical analysis provides a comprehensive view of the structure and extent of social norm change during the pandemic, as well as an analysis of the main factors associated with heterogeneity in attitudinal change.