Media use and support for European solidarity over the course of the pandemic

Published on published on April 28, 2022 – COVID-19 has had many unprecedented and far-reaching consequences for human lives, economies and democracy. In the European Union, one aspect concerns transnational solidarity between member states. A group of ASCoR-researchers led by Andreas Goldberg studied the relationship between citizens’ media use and their attitudes towards European solidarity during the first months of the pandemic. 

Expecting that general news use positively correlates with citizen support for European solidarity, the authors analysed data from a four-wave panel survey conducted in the Netherlands between April and July 2020 (with 1,724 and 1,094 respondents in the first and fourth wave, respectively).

The study distinguished between different types of media use, namely television news, talk shows, newspapers, online news and social media, and examined support for three different types of solidarity, namely fiscal solidarity (i.e., helping other member states with economic problems), medical solidarity (i.e., assisting other member states in need of medical supplies), and border solidarity (i.e. reopening borders between member states).

The findings show that:

  • Support for medical solidarity has generally been higher than support for fiscal and border solidarity, respectively
  • Support for fiscal solidarity remained stable over time, while support for medical solidarity decreased and support for border solidarity increased
  • Unlike expected, media use was hardly related to support for European solidarity, although there were varying relationships between specific forms of media use (e.g., watching television news or reading newspapers) and support for one of the three forms of European solidarity

In sum, solidarity is not a constant, but subject to change over time. This is important for the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and for future understanding of citizens’ support for solidarity in other crisis situations. The non-findings of media use effects can possibly be explained by the circumstance that almost all citizens increased their news use in the initial stage of the crisis (see for example). Future research should study how the relationship between media use and support for European solidarity evolves over a longer period of time.

Funding: This study was funded by the Amsterdam School of Communication Research, The Digital Communication Methods Lab and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and has been approved by the ASCoR Ethics Review Board prior to data collection.

The study was published in West European Politics and can be read here.