In Times of Crisis: Public Perceptions Towards COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps in China, Germany and the US

36 Pages Posted: 19 Sep 2020

See all articles by Genia Kostka

Genia Kostka

Freie Universität, Berlin

Sabrina Habich-Sobiegalla

Freie Universität Berlin

Date Written: September 16, 2020


The adoption of COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps (CTA) has been proposed as an important measure to contain the spread of COVID-19. Surveys that compare public perceptions of CTAs, especially in different types of political regimes, remain limited. Based on a cross-national dataset with 6,464 respondents from China (n=2,201), Germany (n=2,083), and the United States (n=2,180), this paper analyzes public perceptions towards CTAs and the factors that drive CTA acceptance in these three countries. Results indicate that public acceptance is highest among Chinese respondents where almost 60 percent strongly accept the use of CTAs to contain COVID-19. This stands in contrast to Germany and the United States, where fewer than 20 percent strongly accept its use. Despite these stark differences in cross-country acceptance rates, our study shows that the factors influencing these rates are similar in all three countries irrespective of the type of political regime. Health concerns during the pandemic and the fear of a second wave of infections seem to have a positive impact on levels of CTA acceptance in the three countries. Other strong predictors of CTA acceptance in all three countries appear to be the perceived effectiveness of these apps and other measures taken to contain COVID-19, previous use of other health apps as well as levels of trust in the state which all show positive effects. While levels of trust cannot be influenced through straightforward measures, short term acceptance rates could be increased by highlighting CTAs’ performance outcomes to users.

Keywords: COVID-19, contact tracing apps, acceptance, public perception

JEL Classification: P00, O38, O33, O53, O18, H79, H10, H81

Suggested Citation

Kostka, Genia and Habich-Sobiegalla, Sabrina, In Times of Crisis: Public Perceptions Towards COVID-19 Contact Tracing Apps in China, Germany and the US (September 16, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Genia Kostka (Contact Author)

Freie Universität, Berlin ( email )

Boltzmannstr. 3
Berlin, 14195

Sabrina Habich-Sobiegalla

Freie Universität Berlin ( email )

Insitute of Chinese Studies
Fabeckstr. 23-25
Berlin, Berlin 14195

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