15 Chi. J. Int'l L. 110 (2014-2015)
The Influence of International Human Rights Agreements on Public Opinion: An Experimental Study

handle is hein.journals/cjil15 and id is 114 raw text is: The Influence of International Human Rights
Agreements on Public Opinion: An Experimental Study
Adam S. Chilton*
Abstract
Scholars have long speculated that commitments to human rights agreements are unlikely
to have an efect on domestic polig because they do not contain a threat of external enforcement.
Recent research has challenged that belief by suggesting that ratification of human rights
agreements leads democracies to change their policies because international commitments change
public support for reform. Although considerable progress has been made, the empirical research
in support of that theog has not directly tested the primay causal mechanisms speculated to
produce poligy changes. Experimental methods present a promising way to do exactly that. To
leverage that fact, I have embedded an experiment within a survey in the first effort to explore
whether information on the status of international law changes public opinion on a purely
domestic human rights issue: the practice of subjecting prisoners to solitaU confinement. The
results show that, although generic appeals to human nghts do not influence public opinion,
references to prior treaty commitments do. In other words, the results demonstrate the
plausibility of theories of compliance with human rights agreements that are based on the idea
that international obligations alter the political climate within democracies.
Bigelow Teaching Fellow & Lecturer in Law, University of Chicago Law School. I would like to
thank Omri Ben-Shahar, Britt Cramer, Eric Posner, John Rappaport, Matthew Stephenson, Beth
Simmons, Al Sykes, Crystal Yang, and Mila Versteeg for helpful comments. Special thanks are due
to Dustin Tingley for advice on this project. This research benefited from presentations to the
Chicago Junior Faculty Research Forum, the Midwestern Law and Economics Association, and
the Chicago Journal of International law symposium on The Economic Foundations of International Law.
This research was made possible by financial support from the Weatherhead Center for
International Affairs and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University.
Email: adamchilton@uchicago.edu.

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