A Nationalist Backlash to International Refugee Law: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Turkey
40 Pages Posted: 23 May 2018 Last revised: 26 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 19, 2018
How do international laws and norms affect citizens' willingness to accept refugees? In full and partial democracies, citizens' attitudes can influence national policy on refugees across several dimensions: whether and how many the country accepts, and how they are treated once they arrive. And a growing literature suggests international institutions can influence these citizen attitudes on different foreign policy questions, but those studies are almost entirely confined to U.S.- based respondents, and none consider refugee policy. Using a survey experiment administered in September 2017 via 1335 face-to-face interviews with Turkish citizens, we investigate how different international norms affect citizens' willingness to accept refugees. Our findings are surprising: reminding people about the government's responsibility under the Refugee Convention to accept refugees decreases support for accepting them. This effect is driven by respondents who support the nationalist-populist incumbent party. We therefore provide experimental evidence that international refugee law in particular -- and perhaps international institutions generally -- can sometimes trigger political backlash that undermines the very policies they promote.
Keywords: refugees, Refugee Convention, migration, international law, Turkey, nationalism
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