How crisis-proof is our democracy?

The ongoing crises have brought substantial uncertainties and challenges for everyone.

The media has predicted a “hot autumn” and “winter” due to the energy crisis following the war of aggression against Ukraine. Some expected many citizens to revolt against the highly complex political decisions. In various German cities, people took to the streets and expressed their anger in the digital space. Political alliances are emerging between far-right forces and actors on the left.

Such a cross-front, combined with the increased threat posed by disinformation and its polarizing effects, has led to justified warnings of a tipping point in the political mood. In this tense and uncertain situation, there could be a rejection not only of individual political decisions, but of the entire political system and its democratic institutions. Tipping moments often occur suddenly and with enormous force.

The Social Sentiment in the Energy Crisis (SOSEC) project, funded by the Alfred Landecker Foundation, aims to examine these tipping points and their driving forces. The study focuses on crisis-related events such as the war in Ukraine, the climate and energy crises, and the effects of rising prices.

The attack on the German Bundestag in 2020 and the storming of the U.S. Capitol in 2021 have highlighted the simultaneous polarizing and democracy-threatening moments in Germany and the United States. Therefore, SOSEC is deliberately looking at polarizing tendencies in both countries. Moreover, the differences in social security and welfare between the U.S. and Germany make this comparison all the more insightful in times of crisis. The project seeks to contribute to an understanding of the drivers of social polarization, the dividing lines, and elements ensuring social cohesion.

About the institutions involved

The research project consists of an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the FZI Research Center for Information Technology (FZI) and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and is led by the FZI.


The FZI Research Center for Information Technology is an independent, non-profit institution dedicated to research in information technology application and technology transfer, which was established in 1985 by the Ministry of Economics of Baden-Württemberg and the University of Karlsruhe (now KIT). In 2011, an office in Berlin was inaugurated to foster cooperation with politics and civil society and to enhance the visibility of its research and developments. FZI’s competence center on digital democracy and participation, the House of Participation, is also located there.


As „the Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and communicates knowledge for society and environment. The goal is to make significant contributions to global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information. To this end, around 9,800 employees work together on a broad disciplinary basis in the natural sciences, engineering, economics, humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 22,300 students for responsible tasks in society, business and science through research-oriented university studies. The innovative activities at KIT bridge the gap between knowledge and application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity and the preservation of our natural resources. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.


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