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This chapter summarizes the empirical findings of the book and outlines its broader implications for our understanding of politics. It reviews evidence in the book showing that elite communication affects the way citizens perceive of the legitimacy of IOs. When elites endorse or criticize international organizations in public, citizens take notice and adjust their opinions. In addition, it concludes that elites are more likely to shape citizen opinion toward international organizations under some conditions than others. Key moderating factors pertain to all three key components of the communicative context: elites, messages, and citizens. The chapter then discusses the broader implications of the book for current debates in four areas: legitimacy and legitimation, drivers of public opinion, elite influence and democracy, and the contemporary backlash against global governance.
This chapter explores the conditions under which global elites are influential in shaping citizens’ legitimacy beliefs toward global governance. It distinguishes between member governments, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations as three sets of global elites, evaluates whether these elites impact legitimacy beliefs through their communication, and identifies the conditions under which such communication is more successful. The chapter examines theoretical expectations comparatively across five prominent global or regional international organizations, including the European Union, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations. At the heart of the empirical investigation is a survey-embedded experiment in three countries (Germany, the UK, and the US). The analysis shows that communication by more credible elites (member governments and NGOs) has stronger effects on citizens’ legitimacy perceptions than communication by less credible elites (international organizations themselves).
This chapter presents the books theory of elite communication effects on public opinion in global governance. It begins by defining legitimacy beliefs and introducing its favored empirical measure of such beliefs. In developing the book’s theory, the chapter starts from what is distinctive about the global setting in which elites and their messages may impact public opinion. The core of the argument is presented in two steps. The first step explains why elite communication can be expected to shape citizens’ legitimacy beliefs, given that citizens rely on cognitive heuristics when forming opinions. The second step specifies when elite communication can be expected to be particularly influential, identifying conditions associated with all three components of the communicative setting – elites, messages, and citizens.
This chapter focuses on domestic elites and examines the conditions under which political parties influence public perceptions of international organization legitimacy. While it is well-known that political parties are powerful communicators about domestic political matters, less is known about the effects of party cues on global political issues. The chapter explores this topic based on two survey experiments on party communication regarding two international organizations (North Atlantic Treaty Organization and United Nations). The experiments are embedded in surveys conducted in two countries (Germany and the US), which vary in the degree of political polarization. The chapter finds that party cues tend to shape legitimacy beliefs toward NATO and the UN in the highly polarized US setting, while few effects are detected in the less polarized German context.
This chapter sets the stage for the book by providing an empirical overview of citizen legitimacy beliefs, elite legitimacy beliefs, and elite communication in global governance. It shows that citizen legitimacy beliefs vary across countries, international organizations, and over time, but that there is no secular decline in international organization legitimacy in the eyes of citizens. It further demonstrates that elites are divided in their legitimacy beliefs, but that they on average moderately support international organizations. Elite communication in global governance tends to be negative in tone in the context of the international organizations studied, but also involves a broadening of narratives about international organizations and a pattern of fluctuations over time.
This chapter outlines the key paradox motiving the book: while world politics features growing elite contestation over international organizations, we know little about the effects of such communication on citizens legitimacy beliefs toward global governance. The chapter explains the theoretical, empirical, and methodological contributions of the book, and outlines its core argument and findings in brief. It motivates the survey-experimental and comparative research design developed to study elite communication effects on legitimacy beliefs in this book. By providing a review of previous research on legitimacy, legitimation, public opinion, and elite influence, this introductory chapter relates to some of the most important debates in contemporary international relations research.
This chapter examines whether and to what extent information about the procedures and performances of international organizations affects citizens legitimacy beliefs. It examines this issue comparatively across seven international organizations in different issue areas, including the African Union, European Union, United Nations Security Council, and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The survey is conducted in four countries in diverse world regions (Germany, the Philippines, South Africa, and the US). The analysis shows that information about both procedures and performances impact legitimacy beliefs. Moreover, citizens update their legitimacy beliefs in line with information about democracy, effectiveness, and fairness in global governance.
This chapter examines how information on the authority and purpose of international organizations influences citizen legitimacy beliefs toward global governance. Advancing on previous research that primarily has studied effects of procedures and performances on citizens legitimacy beliefs, this chapter uses a conjoint experimental design to assess how different institutional qualities matter when simultaneously communicated to citizens. The chapter explores this issue across hypothetical international organizations in two countries (Germany and the US). It finds that citizens form legitimacy beliefs in line with information about authority and purpose in international organizations. However, this relationship depends on citizens’ political priors. Information about an international organization’s authority has a weaker negative effect on legitimacy beliefs among internationalist citizens. Moreover, the effect of information about an international organization’s social purpose depends on citizens’ political values. These conditioning effects are only found in the more polarized context of the US and not in Germany.
Once staunch advocates of international cooperation, political elites are increasingly divided over the merits of global governance. Populist leaders attack international organizations for undermining national democracy, while mainstream politicians defend their importance for solving transboundary problems. Bridging international relations, comparative politics, and cognitive psychology, Lisa Dellmuth and Jonas Tallberg explore whether, when, and why elite communication shapes the popular legitimacy of international organizations. Based on novel theory, experimental methods, and comparative evidence, they show that elites are influential in shaping how citizens perceive global governance and explain why some elites and messages are more effective than others. The book offers fresh insights into major issues of our day, such as the rise of populism, the power of communication, the backlash against global governance, and the relationship between citizens and elites. It will be of interest to scholars and students of international organisations, and experimental and survey research methods.
This chapter explores the perceived legitimacy of alternative modes global governance. Specifically, it examines whether the gradual shift from hierarchical international organizations and toward market- and network-based institutions can be explained by a decline in the legitimacy of old-style governance and the promise of higher legitimacy for new-style governance. The chapter suggests that legitimacy concerns are of limited importance in explaining this shift. It arrives at this conclusion in three steps. First, it shows how legitimacy concerns feature as a causal mechanism in prominent accounts of the transformation of global governance, highlighting geopolitical shifts, changing governance norms, and domestic backlash to globalization. Second, it draws on public and elite opinion data to assess empirically whether the legitimacy of traditional international organizations is in historical decline, and whether new-style governance nowadays is considered more legitimate than old-style governance, finding mixed or no evidence for these expectations. Third, it discusses potential reasons for why the legitimacy of hierarchical international organizations holds up well in comparison to new forms of global governance, emphasizing conformance to governance norms and the role of heuristics in the formation of legitimacy perceptions.
Scholars and policy makers debate whether elites and citizens hold different views of the legitimacy of international organizations (IOs). Until now, sparse data has limited our ability to establish such gaps and to formulate theories for explaining them. This article offers the first systematic comparative analysis of elite and citizen perceptions of the legitimacy of IOs. It examines legitimacy beliefs toward six key IOs, drawing on uniquely coordinated survey evidence from Brazil, Germany, the Philippines, Russia, and the United States. We find a notable elite–citizen gap for all six IOs, four of the five countries, and all of six different elite types. Developing an individual-level approach to legitimacy beliefs, we argue that this gap is driven by systematic differences between elites and citizens in characteristics that matter for attitudes toward IOs. Our findings suggest that deep-seated differences between elites and general publics may present major challenges for democratic and effective international cooperation.