This paper offers the first systematic and comparative analysis of the effects of elite communication on citizen perceptions of the legitimacy of international organizations (IOs).
Departing from framing theory, we develop hypotheses about the effects of elite communication under the specific conditions of global governance. We test these hypotheses through a population-based survey experiment conducted among almost 10,000 residents of three countries in relation to five IOs. The evidence suggests four principal findings. First, communication by national governments and civil society organizations has stronger effects on legitimacy perceptions than communication by IOs themselves. Second, elite communication affects legitimacy perceptions irrespective of whether it invokes the procedures or the performances of IOs as grounds for criticism or endorsement. Third, negative messages are more effective than positive messages in shaping citizens’ legitimacy perceptions. Fourth, comparing across IOs shows these effects to be stronger for organizations with which citizens are less familiar.
Jonas Tallberg is Professor of Political Science at Stockholm University, where he directs the research group on global and regional governance, selected as a leading area of research at Stockholm University. His primary research interests are global governance and European Union politics. His most recent book is the The Opening Up of International Organizations: Transnational Access in Global Governance (Cambridge University Press, 2013), co-authored with Thomas Sommerer, Theresa Squatrito and Christer Jönsson. Earlier books include Leadership and Negotiation in the European Union (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Tallberg has won numerous awards for his research, including the Forskraft Award for the best Swedish dissertation on international relations, the JCMS Prize for the best article in Journal of Common Market Studies, and the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the German Humboldt Foundation. He has been awarded research grants from, among others, the European Research Council, Fulbright Commission, Swedish Research Council, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, and Nordic Research Academy.
Professor Tallberg is a visiting Scholar at The Europe Center at Stanford until August 2018.