The Domestic Price of Speech and Silence: American Public Opinion on US Human Rights Shaming Behavior

Presented at 2022 Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) Conference and 2022 Georgia Area Human Rights Network (GAHRnet.), 2022


Does the US public care something as simple as whether the US issues a shaming statement against human rights abusing countries? Third-party citizens’ mobilization and pressure “from above” is key to changing the behavior of abusive states. Despite its importance to the transnational human rights advocacy model, domestic cost or benefit in state shaming has been only assumed. Using survey experiment, this paper aims to show that the American public re-evaluates the government’s foreign policy competence upon US’ human rights statement, or lack thereof. The $2 \times 3 \times 2$ factorial design is utilized to test when domestic cost of shaming increases. I expect to find that shaming support increases when the strategic interests in the target decreases and when other countries also comment on the same issue. These findings have several important contributions to the literature. First, it challenges the conventional wisdom that human rights shaming is cheap. Second, it demonstrates that classic theories about US willingness to shame works through public opinion. Third, by showing that that human rights statements of other countries influence public opinion, it joins other works that challenges the current literature’s dyadic approach to state shaming behavior.