A Backlash to International Refugee Law: Evidence from Survey Experiments in Turkey and the U.S.

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Lewinsalen, room 3576, Östra Ågatan 19, Uppsala University
  • Lecturer: Charles Crabtree, Uppsala Forum visiting Fellow, Dartmouth College
  • Organiser: Department of Government and Uppsala Forum
  • Contact person: Per Adman
  • Föreläsning

Welcome to this Uppsala Forum Guest Lecture with visiting Fellow Charles Crabtree on the backlash to international refugee law.

How do international laws and norms affect citizens' willingness to accept refugees? In full and partial democracies, citizens' attitudes can influence national policy on refugees across several dimensions: whether and how many the country accepts, and how they are treated once they arrive. And a growing literature suggests international institutions can influence these citizen attitudes on different foreign policy questions, but those studies are almost entirely confined to U.S.- based respondents, and none consider refugee policy. Using a survey experiment administered in September 2017 via 1335 face-to-face interviews with Turkish citizens, we investigate how different international norms affect citizens' willingness to accept refugees. Our findings are surprising: reminding people about the government's responsibility under the Refugee Convention to accept refugees decreases support for accepting them. This effect is driven by less educated respondents and those who support the nationalist-populist incumbent party. We replicate this result in independent work in the United States. Taken together, our results suggest that international refugee law in particular -- and perhaps international institutions generally -- can sometimes trigger political backlash that undermines the very policies they promote.

Charles Crabtree a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College, a Senior Data Scientist (Research Fellow) at the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, and a Visiting Scholar in the Donia Human Rights Center at the University of Michigan. In fall 2020, he will be an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. His research focuses on fairness in politics, with applications to the study of discrimination, repression, and human rights. Methodologically, he is interested in research design, experiments, and using computational tools to better understand the social world.