The Role of Personality, Political Attitudes and Socio-Demographic Characteristics in Explaining Individual Differences in Fear of Coronavirus: A Comparison Over Time and Across Countries

Julia V. Lippold, Julia I. Laske, Svea A. Hogeterp, Eilish Duke, Thomas Grünhage, Martin Reuter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Since the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in December 2019 about 500,000 people died within the first 6 months. The virus itself, as well as the related political decisions, intensified an increasing feeling of fear in billions of people worldwide. However, while some people remained unperturbed, others experienced panic over the current situation. In order to investigate individual differences in the perceptions, emotions and behaviors in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, an online survey was conducted between 6th and 27th of March 2020. Participants included 7309 individuals from 96 countries, who provided information on socio-demographics, personality, political orientation and general life satisfaction. To determine the specificity of fear of Coronavirus, we also investigated fear related to two other current political issues: the refugee and the climate crises. Overall, in parallel with the escalation of the pandemic, fear of Coronavirus increased significantly over the 22-day period, with the strongest predictors being the personality variable neuroticism, as well as education, sex and being an at-risk person. A detailed longitudinal analysis of the largest sample, Germany, revealed that political orientation was also an important predictor of fear of Coronavirus. Specifically, conservatives were more afraid of Coronavirus than liberals. However, as the perceived threat of the virus increased, the influence of political orientation disappeared, whereas personality remained a stable predictor. The pattern of results regarding the perceived threat of the refugee and climate crises painted a different picture: political orientation was by far the best predictor, more important even than personality. Conservatives were more worried about the refugees, and liberals about climate change. Cross-cultural analyses showed pronounced differences between countries, dependent on the crisis. Nonetheless, the importance of personality for the prediction of fear of Coronavirus remained stable over time and across the world within the investigated 22-day period.

Original languageEnglish
Article number552305
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2020

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