Do citizens evaluate international cooperation based on information about procedural and outcome quality?

  • Thomas Bernauer
  • Steffen Mohrenberg
  • Vally KoubiEmail author


Conventional wisdom holds that public support for international cooperation is crucial to its viability and effectiveness. Elite debates focus heavily on procedural and outcome characteristics of international cooperation when assessing the latter. However, we know very little about whether and how citizens’ evaluation of international cooperation efforts are also based on such process and outcome considerations, as informed via cues they receive from various sources. Procedural characteristics pertain to how international cooperation and resulting agreements are established and implemented. Output characteristics pertain to how effective, costly, and advantageous international cooperation is. Based on three survey experiments in Germany and the United Kingdom (N = 3000 each), and with an empirical focus on transboundary air pollution in Europe, we examine (1) to what extent information on process and outcomes of international cooperation matters for public support, (2) whether information on the prospect of effective and advantageous outcomes reduces public demand for process improvement in international cooperation, and vice versa, and (3) whether high process quality could make citizens more tolerant of lower quality outcomes, and vice versa? The results show that, from the viewpoint of citizens, both process and outcome characteristics matter. While process-related evaluations of citizens are hardly affected by information on the prospect of high or low outcome quality, citizens are less tolerant of low outcome quality when process quality is low. These results suggest that enhancing process quality is worthwhile, particularly for policy challenges requiring long-term and incremental efforts.


International cooperation Public support Environment Air pollution Experiment Survey 



We thank Jonas Tallberg, Marco Steenbergen, Liliana Andonova, Thomas Risse, Michael Zürn, as well as colleagues from the NCCR Democracy for very helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. We are also grateful to Irina Shaymerdenova, Eleanor Willi, and Lukas P. Fesenfeld for research assistance. This article was written in the context of and the survey was funded by the National Center for Competence in Research (NCCR), ‘Democracy in the 21st Century’.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Bernauer
    • 1
  • Steffen Mohrenberg
    • 1
  • Vally Koubi
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Center for Comparative and International Studies (CIS)ETH Zurich and University of BernZurichSwitzerland

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