How can international organizations shape public opinion? analysis of a pair of survey-based experiments

  • Brian GreenhillEmail author


How, and under what conditions, can International Organizations (IOs) shape public opinion? The impact of IOs on public support for war has been studied closely by international relations scholars, yet their effects on environmental or human rights issues has not. This is surprising given the extent to which the success of these initiatives will depend upon cooperation through international institutions. This article examines how IOs can influence popular support for two policies aimed at solving global collective action problems: (1) the REDD+ deforestation initiative; and (2) efforts to resettle Syrian refugees. The results presented here use a pair of survey-based experiments to test whether public support for these policies can be affected by the recommendations made by various organizations and their member states. Somewhat surprisingly, the results suggest that endorsements by the United Nations have a greater effect on the US public than do endorsements by organizations known for their technical expertise, or by prominent international NGOs. These findings call into question some of the assumptions we commonly make about the perceived legitimacy of international organizations.


Human rights Environment Deforestation Refugees UN OECD 

JEL Classification

F53 L31 Q54 



I would like to thank Chris Clary, Jeremy Horowitz, Dan Reiter, Niloufer Siddiqui, Alexander Thompson, Ben Valentino, and Jana von Stein for their comments and suggestions on this project. I am especially grateful to Matthew Kirk for his research assistance, and to the editors and anonymous reviewers at the Review of International Organization for their very thoughtful comments and suggestions..

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity at Albany, SUNYAlbanyUSA

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