Public Preference for International Law Compliance: Respecting Legal Obligations or Conforming to Common Practices?
31 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2021 Last revised: 18 Nov 2022
Date Written: November 17, 2022
Despite significant debate about the ability of international law to constrain state behavior, recent research points to domestic mechanisms that deter non-compliance, most notably public disapproval of governments that violate treaty agreements. However, existing studies have not explicitly differentiated two distinct, theoretically important motivations that underlie this disapproval: respect for legal obligations versus the desire to follow common global practices. We design an innovative survey experiment in Japan that manipulates information about these two potential channels directly. We examine attitudes towards four controversial practices that fall afoul of international law---same-surname marriage, whaling, hate speech regulation, and capital punishment---and find that the legal obligation cue has a stronger effect on respondent attitudes than the common practices cue. We also show subgroup differences based on partisanship and identification with global civil society. These results demonstrate that the legal nature of international law is crucial to domestic compliance pull.
Keywords: International Law, Public Opinion, Survey Experiment, Japan
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