COVID-19 anxieties in Eastern Europe and civic attitudes
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Description: Liberal democracy has been in trouble in the European Union (EU) for some time (see Coppedge et. al. 2020, Kelemen, 2020; Cianetti et al., 2018; Sedelmeier, 2017; Blauberger and Kelemen. 2017). The advent of the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic made matters worse (see Jones, 2020; Engler et al., 2021; Guasti, 2020), raising the need to understand whether the pandemic might have long-term effects on the functioning of liberal democracy. In places such as Hungary or Romania, political elites took advantage of the situation to aggrandize their executive powers. But what effects can we trace on the demand side of democratic life in these countries? Are citizens more or less likely to tolerate constraints on individual rights and freedoms under conditions of fear of the COVID-19 pandemic even as the state of threat weakens or moderates? This study aims to address this question. We study the effect of fear of COVID-19 on authoritarian practices specifically related to COVID-19 and to right-wing authoritarian attitudes, nationalist attitudes, and outgroup-hostility among Eastern European citizens, more generally. To do so, we design an online-survey experiment that is fielded in Hungary and Romania. We experimentally manipulate the cognitive accessibility of fear of COVID-19 among a random subset of respondents.