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International Law, Constitutional Law, and Public Support for Torture

30 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2015 Last revised: 9 Feb 2016

Adam S. Chilton

University of Chicago - Law School

Mila Versteeg

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: Feburary 8, 2016

Abstract

The human rights movement has spent considerable energy developing and promoting the adoption of both international and domestic legal prohibitions against torture. Empirical scholarship testing the effectiveness of these prohibitions using observational data, however, has produced mixed results. In this paper, we explore one possible mechanism through which these prohibitions may be effective: dampening public support for torture. Specifically, we conducted a survey experiment to explore the impact of international and constitutional law on public support for torture. We found that a bare majority of respondents in our control group support the use of torture, and that presenting respondents with arguments that this practice violates international law or constitutional law did not produce a statistically significant decrease in support. These findings are consistent with prior research suggesting, even in democracies, that legal prohibitions on torture have been ineffective.

Keywords: Human Rights; Torture; International Law; Constitutional Law; Survey Experiment; Public Opinion

JEL Classification: K100

Suggested Citation

Chilton, Adam S. and Versteeg, Mila, International Law, Constitutional Law, and Public Support for Torture (Feburary 8, 2016). Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 22; Research & Politics (2016 Forthcoming); Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 22; University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 733. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2650929 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2650929

Adam S. Chilton

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.adamchilton.org

Mila Versteeg (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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