The research unit “Weizenbaum Panel“ collects longitudinal data on how people perceive digitalization, how people’s democratic and civic attitudes change and how they conceive their role as citizens in a digitizing democracy. With the survey of the same name, the Weizenbaum Panel, high-quality and relevant data is continuously collected, evaluated, and made available to society, the media and the scientific community.
Digital media offer a wide range of new opportunities for our everyday social life and our social and political engagement. On the Internet, we can read news, shop, discuss with others or share petitions on social media. At the same time, we are faced with new challenges: As a society, we have to learn how to deal with hate speech or fake news we may encounter on the Internet. Against this background, the research unit Weizenbaum Panel is interested in how citizens understand and interpret their role in society, what attitudes they show towards democracy and how they change.
By combining a longitudinal survey on fundamental issues of participation and citizenship with the openness to new research questions and issues, the Weizenbaum Panel enhances scientific research in the field of democracy studies, political communication, political sociology and psychology, and likewise enables the development and expansion of a research data infrastructure for interdisciplinary research on digitization at the Weizenbaum Institute. In the interest of knowledge transfer, selected findings are presented to an interested public with the annual Weizenbaum Report.
The Weizenbaum Panel’s research essentially consists of conducting an annual representative telephone survey. Focusing on political participation and digitization, the initial purpose of this longitudinal survey is to expand basic research in these fields. Beyond that, the Weizenbaum Panel contributes to interdisciplinary research on digitization by enabling all research groups and units of the Weizenbaum Institute to embed their research interests into the survey. Therefore, the Weizenbaum Panel team support colleagues in mapping their own research interest in the questionnaire. The existing basis of panel data, which so far mainly consists of indicators of media use, democratic / political attitudes and social / political engagement next to sociodemographic variables, will be extended stepwise. In this way, a wide variety of projects based at the Weizenbaum Institute can benefit from the longitudinal survey, which in turn fosters the interdisciplinarity of the Institute.
Why panel data?
The Weizenbaum Panel is designed as a panel survey. Therefore, it aims to survey the same people over several years. This data is particularly valuable to observe and analyze developments over time. It allows to study intra-individual changes, without having to control for individual time-invariant factors. Long-term societal processes like digitization and its impacts on various areas of life, can be represented, analyzed and interpreted particularly well with this type of research data. In addition to longitudinal analyses, however, the individual observation points, the so-called "waves," are of course also suitable for cross-sectional studies.
The Weizenbaum Panel data is collected by means of computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI), which are carried out annually by specially trained interviewers. The target population comprises the German-speaking residential population of Germany over 16 years. To ensure a sampling procedure that is representative of the German population, we work with a dual-frame approach. The GESIS – Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften provides the telephone numbers according to the “Gabler-Häder-Design.” Correspondingly, the telephone numbers are generated at random and called in equal numbers. All legal provisions regarding data privacy as well as the common standards and guidelines of empirical social research are adhered to (e.g., the “guidelines for telephone surveys” from ADM).
In order to enable other scientists to work with the survey data of the Weizenbaum Panel, the research unit publishes the data of each survey, including the corresponding questionnaires as well as field reports and annual reports, on the Weizenbaum Panel website (https://panel.weizenbaum-institut.de/en/). Also on this website, you will find a data explorer, which allows scientists as well as journalists and interested citizens to analyze particular questions of the panel by themselves.
The first waves of the Weizenbaum Panel paid special attention to media usage patterns and political participation, as well as political attitudes and citizenship norms, i.e., notions of how “good citizens” ought to behave and participate in society. First findings indicate that these norms are changing significantly under the influence of digitization and that in addition to traditional norms, like attending elections, also internet-related norms aiming at a respectful public discourse on the Internet, gain relevance. A majority of the people in Germany think that good citizens should engage with information in a responsible way and actively counter disinformation and hate speech.
The previous results from the first survey waves, from 2019 to 2021, also show that traditional forms of social and political engagement are being supplemented by digital means of participation to a great extent, especially among young age cohorts. The most popular forms of political participation are donations, petitions, boycotting / buycotting of certain products for political or ethical reasons, and mobilizing other people.
Members of this Research Unit
Prof. Dr. Martin Emmer
Principal Investigator, Founding Director
Research Group Lead
Research Group Coordinator
Research Group Assistant
Katharina Heger, M.A.
Sofie Jokerst, M.A.