The self-selection of democracies into treaty design: insights from international environmental agreements

Original Paper


Generally, democratic regime type is positively associated with participating in international environmental agreements. In this context, this study focuses on the legal nature of an agreement, which is linked to audience costs primarily at the domestic level that occur in case of non-compliance and are felt especially by democracies. Eventually, more legalized (“hard-law”) treaties make compliance potentially more challenging and as democratic leaders may anticipate the corresponding audience costs, the likelihood that democracies select themselves into such treaties decreases. The empirical implication of our theory is that environmental agreements with a larger share of democratic members are less likely to be characterized by hard law. Results from quantitative analyses strongly support our argument, shed new light on the relationship between participation in international agreements and the form of government, and also have implications for the “words-deeds” debate in international environmental policy-making.


Democracy Design International environmental agreements Legalization Quantitative methods Treaties 



We thank the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Joyeeta Gupta, the journal’s Managing Editor, Courtney L. Vegelin, and the anonymous reviewers for valuable comments and suggestions that helped to improve the manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 659 kb)
10784_2018_9391_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (63 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 63 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GovernmentUniversity of EssexColchesterUK
  2. 2.University College LondonLondonUK

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