Framing COVID-19: Public Leadership and Crisis Communication By Chancellor Angela Merkel During the Pandemic in 2020

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



While communication generally embodies an essential part of public leadership, this is even more true in times of crisis when uncertainty prevails, and the public expects the leader not only to take adequate measures to mitigate the crisis, but also to justify and explain these measures. In the COVID-19 pandemic, Angela Merkel’s communication differed from other Western political leaders who strongly relied on a war narrative. This paper focuses on the framing by the German Chancellor during the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic (March–July 2020). We examine Merkel’s crisis communication in three different public arenas: her public speeches, her press conference appearances and her weekly podcasts. Based on a qualitative content analysis, our study provides three relevant insights. First, it proves that the claim for solidarity–national as well as European solidarity - represents the crucial element of Merkel’s meaning-making narrative. Second, the study shows that both statements on the protection of public health and of economy strongly resonate in her communication, but that the prioritisation shifted over time. Finally, our analysis manifests how Merkel’s framing differs in the three communicative arenas. Additionally, our findings indicate that Merkel followed a modified leadership style during the COVID-19 crisis.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
JournalGerman Politics
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2022

External IDs

WOS 000767106000001
Scopus 85126555450
ORCID /0000-0001-9879-5953/work/156335465


Research priority areas of TU Dresden


  • COVID-19, Germany, Merkel, crisis communication, public leadership, solidarity

Library keywords