The consumption of communication media has skyrocketed during the pandemic, as indicated by works such as that of Montaña Blasco and others (2020). Television has continued to be the preferred means of information for Spaniards. According to this study, television news consumption has increased by 65% during the health crisis. The consumption of information programs on radio has also skyrocketed – they grew 112% – and digital newspapers – which doubled their visitor traffic.
This is a good indicator of the moment of extreme politicization in which we find ourselves. Staying out of politics seems more difficult than ever for two reasons: since the beginning of the pandemic, measures have been taken that cut across the daily lives of citizens. So, even if we want to, we cannot disconnect from the political sphere. Second, these measures are dynamic in nature. That is, the citizen, in addition to seeing his life transformed, must be continually attentive to political decisions to know if the next day he can travel, go to work, to the bar or simply leave home.
The politicization or moment of political socialization is the “period in which the political identity, values and political behavior of citizens crystallize and which tends to remain fairly stable for the rest of their lives” (Neundorf & Smets, 2017).
There are events that, due to their importance, mark the political behavior of entire generations, which is called “cohort or political generation effect” (Simon, 2018). Many academics indicate that this Covid-19 crisis, due to its historical, political and media significance, is going to be the ‘politicizing’ agent of the generation of young people who already suffer and will continue to suffer its long list of consequences – health, economic, psychological, restriction of rights and freedoms, and so on.
However, this pandemic is not only going to politicize those who – due to their age – correspond. In addition, it can politically mark other profiles less orthodox, or perhaps less studied by the discipline of electoral behavior. Those who were not interested in politics, but now have to do it necessarily because of the depths of the restrictions that alter their daily lives.
Following this logic, the pandemic would be politicizing twice: in the first place, whom it touches by age of politicization; but also to those who remained outside of politics by will or disinterest, but who are now forced to follow current political affairs and, as a consequence, to form an opinion.
The key question arising from this breeding ground is: In what way is the pandemic going to politicize us? Whoever knows how to respond or intervene in the response, will be able to know or guide the future political behavior of several million young people and citizens previously disconnected from politics.
The answer, in addition, constitutes in itself a window of opportunity for the construction of some political discourse or movement that is yet to come. Hopefully, away from the opportunism that in the past has been so nurtured by crises of this magnitude.
* Gonzalo Velasco Monasterio is a political analyst at the Alternativas Foundation