Public Reactions to International Legal Institutions: The International Criminal Court in a Developing Democracy

Terry Chapman (and Stephen Chaudoin) has published, “Public Reactions to International Legal Institutions: The International Criminal Court in a Developing Democracy,” in Journal of Politics.

Abstract: We examine public attitudes concerning a possible investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC). We hypothesize that citizens tend to display lower levels of support for investigations in their own country than hypothetical ones abroad. We further argue that this decrease in support is moderated by a citizen’s “proximity” to the investigation. Both perpetrators and victims of alleged crimes can be hesitant about legal interventions, with the former fearing prosecution and the latter fearing the loss of a fragile peace. We use a survey experiment about the ICC in Kyrgyzstan that randomly assigned respondents to a control group, asked about foreign investigations, and a treatment group, asked about an investigation into recent local violence. Treatment lowered otherwise relatively high approval for investigations. This effect was strongest in regions most proximate to the violence, especially among coethnics of victims. Our findings help explain why support for international law can vary widely across subnational constituencies.