Skip to main content

Preferences for Centralized Decision-Making in Times of Crisis: the COVID-19 Pandemic in Germany

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Jahrbuch für Handlungs- und Entscheidungstheorie

Zusammenfassung

The health crisis caused by the rapid spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) poses enormous challenges to governments around the globe. Far-reaching measures have to be enacted, and even a slight delay can have fatal negative consequences. The necessity for swift and resolute governmental action constitutes a particular predicament for federal democracies like Germany in which the regular decision-making process requires not only time for parliamentary scrutiny but also the coordination of multiple actors and interests at different levels of government. In this context, calls for centralized decision-making and expanded executive discretion are frequent. This study uses daily panel data from the Mannheim Corona Study collected during the first wave of the pandemic to investigate factors that influence respondents’ propensity to grant additional discretionary powers to the German federal government. Based on insights from the crisis management literature, we explore the effects of decentralized policy responses, trust in government, satisfaction with the government and parliament, and personal threat perceptions on individual preferences for centralized decision-making. The results show that, while trust in government before the pandemic has a minor impact, state-level policy heterogeneity and individual threat perceptions strongly increase the likelihood to support the centralization of decision-making competencies.

“Our idea of normality, of public life, social togetherness—all of this is being put to the test as never before.”

Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, in her TV announcement on March 18, 2020.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 64.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Notes

  1. 1.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) first classified the outbreak as “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” on January 30, 2020 (World Health Organization 2020a) and as pandemic on March 11, 2020 (World Health Organization 2020b).

  2. 2.

    Modern constitutions, though, usually feature special provisions for emergency situations that permit the transfer of decision-making authority to allow the executive branch to issue decrees, censor information, or (temporarily) restrict fundamental rights and suspend the usual legal process (Greene 2011; Ferejohn and Pasquino 2004; Arato 2002). Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), for example, is a derogation clause that grants states emergency powers in times of crisis (e.g., Tierney 2005). Hence, crisis provisions are well within the institutional realm. However, given the uniqueness and unpredictability of an emergency situation, no legal document can provide clear guidance on the appropriate means used by the government to respond to a specific crisis (Scheuerman 2006).

  3. 3.

    Note that Hegele and Schnabel (2021) differentiate between two very similar dimensions of federal decision-making. The centralized-decentralized dimension captures the strength of the federal government vis-à-vis the sub-national units while the unilateral-coordinated dimension concerns the degree to which a government consults other governments when making policy decisions.

  4. 4.

    As in many other countries, the implementation of an emergency health law in March further expanded the executive’s discretionary power in France (Hassenteufel 2020, p. 5).

  5. 5.

    It is important to stress that these problems are not an inherent feature of federalism per se but depend on the specific institutional design, the actors’ preferences, as well as the policies implemented during a crisis (Rocco et al. 2020, p. 472). In fact, federalism has some important advantages (Lester and Krejci 2007, see, for instance,) and other federal systems, like Germany (Naumann et al. 2020), managed to respond to the onset of the health crisis comparatively well.

  6. 6.

    In the original German item, the federal government, parliament, and states are referred to by their German names, i.e., Bundesregierung, Bundestag, and Bundesländer.

  7. 7.

    The party factions are CDU/CSU, SPD, AfD, Greens, Left, and FDP.

  8. 8.

    Table 3 in the Appendix shows that the results are virtually unchanged when we model respondents as nested within states and estimate both sets of random effects.

  9. 9.

    We note, however, that pre-pandemic trust in the federal government and satisfaction with it are correlated (weighted \(\rho = 0.5\)) which may affect inferences by inflating the standard errors. However, given the small effect size of pre-pandemic trust, we regard this as unlikely.

Literatur

  • Ackerman, Bruce. 2000. “The New Separation of Powers.” Harvard Law Review 113(3):633–729.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ackerman, Bruce. 2004. “The Emergency Constitution.” The Yale Law Journal 113(5):1029–1091.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arato, Andrew. 2002. “The Bush Tribunals and the Specter of Dictatorship.” Constellations 9(4):457–476.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blom, Annelies G., Carina Cornesse, Sabine Friedel, Ulrich Krieger, Marina Fikel, Tobias Rettig, Alexander Wenz, Sebastian Juhl, Roni Lehrer, Katja Möhring, Elias Naumann and Maximiliane Reifenscheid. 2020. “High-Frequency and High-Quality Survey Data Collection: The Mannheim Corona Study.” Survey Research Methods 14(2):171–178. https://ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/srm/article/view/7735

  • Blom, Annelies G., Christina Gathmann and Ulrich Krieger. 2015. “Setting Up an Online Panel Representative of the General Population: The German Internet Panel.” Field Methods 27(4):391–408. https://doi.org/10.1177/1525822X15574494

  • Bol, Damien, Marco Giani, Aandré Blais and Peter John Loewen. 2020. “The effect of COVID-19 lockdowns on political support: Some good news for democracy?” European Journal of Political Research pp. 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6765.12401

  • Breznau, Nate. 2020. “The welfare state and risk perceptions: the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic and public concern in 70 countries.” European Societies pp. 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616696.2020.1793215

  • Capano, Giliberto, Michael Howlett, Darryl S. L.Jarvis, M. Ramesh and Nihit Goyal. 2020. “bilizing Policy (In)Capacity to Fight COVID-19: Understanding Variations in State Responses.” Policy and Society 39(3):285–308.

    Google Scholar 

  • Christensen, Tom and Per Lægreid. 2020. “Balancing Governance Capacity and Legitimacy: How the Norwegian Government Handled the COVID-19 Crisis as a High Performer.” Public Administration Review 80(5):774–779.

    Google Scholar 

  • Conlan, Tim. 2006. “From Cooperative to Opportunistic Federalism: Reflections on the Half-Century Anniversary of the Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.” Public Administration Review 66(5):663–676.

    Google Scholar 

  • Corbett, Ross J. 2009. “Locke and the Challenges of Crisis Government.” The Good Society 18(2):20–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deslatte, Aaron, Megan E. Hatch and Eric Stokan. 2020. “How Can Local Governments Address Pandemic Inequities?” Public Administration Review 80(5):827–831.

    Google Scholar 

  • Devine, Daniel, Jennifer Gaskell, Will Jennings and Gerry Stoker. 2020. “Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic: What are the Consequences of and for Trust? An Early Review of the Literature.” Political Studies Review pp. 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1177/1478929920948684

  • Ferejohn, John and Pasquale Pasquino. 2004. “The law of the exception: A typology of emergency powers.” International Journal of Constitutional Law 2(2):210–239.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greene, Alan. 2011. „Separating Normalcy from Emergency: The Jurisprudence of Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights.“ German Law Journal 12(10):1764–1785.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guglielmi, Simona, Giulia M. Dotti Sani, Francesco Molteni, Ferruccio Biolcati, Antonio M. Chiesi, Riccardo Ladini, Marco Maraffi, Andrea Pedrazzani and Cristiano Vezzoni. 2020. „Public acceptability of containment measures during the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy: how institutional confidence and specific political support matter.“ International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy pp. 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-07-2020-0342

  • Haffajee, Rebecca L. and Michelle M. Mello. 2020. „Thinking Globally, Acting Locally - The U.S. Response to Covid-19.“ New England Journal of Medicine 382(22):e75(1)–e75(3).

    Google Scholar 

  • Hasell, Joe, Edouard Mathieu, Diana Beltekian, Bobbie Macdonald, Charlie Giattino, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, Max Roser and Hannah Ritchie. 2020. „A cross-country database of COVID-19 testing.“ Scientific Data 7(345):1–7.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hassenteufel, Patrick. 2020. „Handling the COVID-19 crisis in France: Paradoxes of a centralized state-led health system.“ European Policy Analysis 6(2):170–179. https://doi.org/10.1002/epa2.1104

  • Hattke, Fabian and Helge Martin. 2020. „Collective action during the Covid-19 pandemic: The case of Germany’s fragmented authority.“ Administrative Theory & Praxis 42(4):614–632.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hegele, Yvonne and Johanna Schnabel. 2021. „Federalism and the management of the COVID-19 crisis: centralisation, decentralisation and (non-)coordination.“ West European Politics 44(5–6):1052–1076.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hegele, Yvonne and Nathalie Behnke. 2017. „Horizontal coordination in cooperative federalism: The purpose of ministerial conferences in Germany.“ Regional & Federal Studies 27(5):529–548.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hermann, Charles F. 1963. „Some Consequences of Crisis Which Limit the Viability of Organizations.“ Administrative Science Quarterly 8(1):61–82.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hibbing, John R. and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse. 2001. „Process Preferences and American Politics: What the People Want Government to Be.“ American Political Science Review 95(1):145–153.

    Google Scholar 

  • Juhl, Sebastian and David Hilpert. 2021. „Wheeling and dealing behind closed doors: estimating the causal effect of transparency on policy evaluations using a survey experiment.“ Political Science Research and Methods 9(1):36–52.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kettl, Donald F. 2020. „States Divided: The Implications of American Federalism for COVID-19.“ Public Administration Review 80(4):595–602.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klafki, Anika. 2020. „Neue Rechtsgrundlagen im Kampf gegen Covid-19.“ Verfassungsblog: On Matters Constitutional. https://doi.org/10.17176/20200325-123240-0

  • Lester, William and Daniel Krejci. 2007. „Business „Not“ as Usual: The National Incident Management System, Federalism, and Leadership.“ Public Administration Review 67(s1):84–93.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lijphart, Arend. 2012. Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. Second ed. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Louwerse, Tom, Ulrich Sieberer, Or Tuttnauer and Rudy B. Andeweg. 2021. „Opposition in times of crisis: COVID-19 in parliamentary debates.“ West European Politics 44(5–6):1025–1051.

    Google Scholar 

  • Matthews, Felicity. 2012. Governance, Governing and the Capacity of Executives in Times of Crisis. In Executive Politics in Times of Crisis, ed. Martin Lodge and Kai Wegrich. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK pp. 217–238.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Migone, Andrea Riccardo. 2020. „Trust, but customize: federalism’s impact on the Canadian COVID-19 response.“ Policy and Society 39(3):382–402.

    Google Scholar 

  • Naumann, Elias, Katja Möhring, Maximiliane Reifenscheid, Alexander Wenz, Tobias Rettig, Roni Lehrer, Ulrich Krieger, Sebastian Juhl, Sabine Friedel, Marina Fikel, Carina Cornesse and Annelies G. Blom. 2020. „COVID-19 policies in Germany and their social, political, and psychological consequences.“ European Policy Analysis 6(2):191–202. https://doi.org/10.1002/epa2.1091

  • Neal, Andrew W. 2012. „Terrorism, Lawmaking, and Democratic Politics: Legislators as Security Actors.“ Terrorism and Political Violence 24(3):357–374.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pierre, Jon. 2020. „Nudges against pandemics: Sweden’s COVID-19 containment strategy in perspective.“ Policy and Society 39(3):478–493.

    Google Scholar 

  • Prati, Gabriele, Luca Pietrantoni and Bruna Zani. 2011. „Compliance with recommendations for pandemic influenza H1N1 2009: the role of trust and personal beliefs.“ Health Education Research 26(5):761–769.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rocco, Philip, Daniel Béland and Alex Waddan. 2020. „Stuck in neutral? Federalism, policy instruments, and counter-cyclical responses to COVID-19 in the United States.“ Policy and Society 39(3):458–477.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosenthal, Uriel and Alexander Kouzmin. 1997. „Crises and Crisis Management: Toward Comprehensive Government Decision Making.“ Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory: J-PART 7(2):277–304.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosenthal, Uriel, Michael T. Charles and Paul ’t Hart. 1989. Coping with Crises: The Management of Disasters, Riots, and Terrorism. Studies in Austrian Literature Springfield: Charles C. Thomas.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scheuerman, William E. 2006. „Survey Article: Emergency Powers and the Rule of Law After 9/11.“ Journal of Political Philosophy 14(1):61–84.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scheuerman, William E. 2012. „Emergencies, Executive Power, and the Uncertain Future of US Presidential Democracy.“ Law & Social Inquiry 37(3):743–767.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schulze, Max. 2020. „Der Deutsche Bundestag ist noch rechtzeitig aufgewacht.“ JuWissBlog Nr. 39/2020. https://www.juwiss.de/39-2020/

  • Steinmetz, Holger, Veronika Batzdorfer and Michael Bosnjak. 2020. „The ZPID lockdown measures dataset for Germany.“.

    Google Scholar 

  • ’t Hart, Paul and Karen Tindall. 2009. Understanding crisis exploitation: leadership, rhetoric and framing contests in response to the economic meltdown. In Framing the Global Economic Downturn: Crisis rhetoric and the politics of recessions, eds. Paul ’t Hart and Karen Tindall. Canberra: ANU Press pp. 21–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • ’t Hart, Paul, Karen Tindall and Christer Brown. 2009. „Crisis Leadership of the Bush Presidency: Advisory Capacity and Presidential Performance in the Acute Stages of the 9/11 and Katrina Crises.“ Presidential Studies Quarterly 39(3):473–493.

    Google Scholar 

  • ’t Hart, Paul, Liesbet Heyse and Arjen Boin. 2001. „New Trends in Crisis Management Practice and Crisis Management Research: Setting the Agenda.“ Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 9(4):181–188.

    Google Scholar 

  • ’t Hart, Paul, Uriel Rosenthal and Alexander Kouzmin. 1993. „Crisis Decision Making: The Centralization Thesis Revisited.“ Administration & Society 25(1):12–45.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tang, Catherine S. K. and Chi-yan Wong. 2003. „An Outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome: Predictors of Health Behaviors and Effect of Community Prevention Measures in Hong Kong, China.“ American Journal of Public Health 93(11):1887–1888.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tierney, Stephen. 2005. „Determining the State of Exception: What Role for Parliament and the Courts?“ The Modern Law Review 68(4):668–673.

    Google Scholar 

  • van der Weerd, Willemien, Daniëlle Rm Timmermans, Desirée Jma Beaujean, Jurriaan Oudhoff and Jim E. van Steenbergen. 2011. „Monitoring the level of government trust, risk perception and intention of the general public to adopt protective measures during the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic in The Netherlands.“ BMC Public Health 11:575.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vinck, Patrick, Phuong N. Pham, Kenedy K. Bindu, Juliet Bedford and Eric J. Nilles. 2019. „Institutional trust and misinformation in the response to the 2018-201919 Ebola outbreak in North Kivu, DR Congo: a population-based survey.“ 19(5):529–536.

    Google Scholar 

  • Waugh, William L. 2006. „The Political Costs of Failure in the Katrina and Rita Disasters.“ The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 604(1):10–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • Waugh, William L. and Gregory Streib. 2006. „Collaboration and Leadership for Effective Emergency Management.“ Public Administration Review 66(s1):131–140.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weible, Christopher M., Daniel Nohrstedt, Paul Cairney, David P. Carter, Deserai A. Crow, Anna P. Durnová, Tanya Heikkila, Karin Ingold, Allan McConnell and Diane Stone. 2020. „COVID-19 and the policy sciences: initial reactions and perspectives.“ Policy Sciences 53(2):225–241.

    Google Scholar 

  • White, Jonathan. 2015. „Authority after Emergency Rule.“ The Modern Law Review 78(4):585–610.

    Google Scholar 

  • World Health Organization. 2020a. „Statement on the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).“. https://www.who.int/news/item/30-01-2020-statement-on-the-second-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov)

  • World Health Organization. 2020b. “WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 11 March 2020.”. https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19---11-march-2020

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sebastian Juhl .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Appendices

Summary Statistics

Tab. 2 (Unweighted) Summary Statistics

Alternative Random-Effects Structure

Tab. 3 Regression Analysis with Alternative Random Effects

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2022 Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Juhl, S. et al. (2022). Preferences for Centralized Decision-Making in Times of Crisis: the COVID-19 Pandemic in Germany. In: Sauermann, J., Tepe, M., Debus, M. (eds) Jahrbuch für Handlungs- und Entscheidungstheorie. Jahrbuch für Handlungs- und Entscheidungstheorie. Springer VS, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-35878-5_1

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-35878-5_1

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer VS, Wiesbaden

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-658-35877-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-658-35878-5

  • eBook Packages: Social Science and Law (German Language)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics