Public and Elite Opinion on International Human Rights Law
Kim, Matthew Dale
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AbstractWhy do states comply with international human rights law? In the absence of a centralized enforcement body, many have questioned why states in anarchy comply with international law. Scholars have looked to domestic politics to suggest one potential mechanism through which international human rights law encourages state compliance. Treaty commitments to human rights norms affect the preferences of domestic constituents thus encouraging elites to abide by codified human rights norms. A handful of studies use survey experiments to examine the domestic compliance mechanism, but much remains unanswered. What determines the extent of public support for compliance with human rights law? Does past noncompliance negatively affect the public's first-order and second-order beliefs about future compliance and thereby encourage compliance with existing international law? Do elites differ from the general public in their willingness to abide by human rights treaties, and do they shift their stance when faced with public opposition? Using a series of survey experiments and a lab-in-the-field experiment, I explore the extent to which the public is willing and able to constrain governments to abide by a wide array of international human rights law. I find that international legal commitments can elicit public support for compliance with human rights norms and that public support can influence elite behavior.
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