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International Adjudication and Public Opinion in Territorial Disputes: Evidence from a Survey Experiment Using Amazon Mechanical Turk

Florian Justwan and Sarah K. Fisher

Abstract

This article explores the effects of international adjudication on individual-level attitudes in territorial disputes. In particular, we investigate the micro-foundations for the argument that international court rulings provide political cover for governments settling disputes through unpopular territorial concessions. In an online survey conducted for this project, 494 Indian respondents were confronted with a fictitious foreign policy scenario. A randomized experiment embedded in the survey provides four major findings. First, international adjudication makes citizens more willing to support concessions in border disputes. Second, international courts influence the perceived fairness of comprosmise solutions. Third, legal conflict management mediates the emotional fallout of territorial concessions. Finally, we do not find any evidence for the claim that international adjudication reduces individual-level concerns over commitment problems. By focusing on individual-level data, this article provides an important contribution to the literature on international conflict management.

Appendix

The Foreign Policy Scenario

Below is the foreign policy scenario presented to survey respondents:

In this section, we will present to you a hypothetical foreign policy scenario involving India and [China/Pakistan]. In order to ensure the scientific validity of this study, the following scenario will remain abstract and not involve any real-world border dispute. After describing the situation, we will ask you for your opinion about a few policy options

  • Five years ago, the United Kingdom turned over three small islands in the Bay of Bengal to India.

  • These islands are roughly equal in size and uninhabited.

  • Before the United Kingdom announced its decision to relinquish the islands, both India and [China/Pakistan] claimed that the islands were rightfully theirs.

  • [China/Pakistan] was outraged when the United Kingdom announced its decision to hand over the islands to India.

  • [China/Pakistan] has now officially asked India to give up control over all three islands and to hand them over to [China/Pakistan].

Survey Questions

Dependent Variable: Support for Concessions

After a few weeks of internal deliberations, the Indian government has decided to give up two of the three islands to [China/ Pakistan] in order to resolve the dispute To what extent do you approve or disapprove of the Indian government’s decision to hand over two of the three islands to [China/Pakistan]?

OR

An international court has ruled that India has to give up two of the three islands to [China/Pakistan]. After receiving this verdict, the Indian government has decided to give up two of the three islands to [China/Pakistan] in order to resolve the dispute. To what extent do you approve or disapprove of the Indian government’s decision to hand over two of the three islands to [China/Pakistan] following the ruling of the court?

  • Strongly disapprove

  • Somewhat disapprove

  • Neither approve nor disapprove

  • Somewhat approve

  • Strongly approve

Dependent Variables: Perceived Fairness

What is the fairest solution to this dispute?

  • India should keep all three islands.

  • India should give all three islands to [China/Pakistan].

  • India should keep two islands and give one island to [China/Pakistan].

  • India should keep one island and give two islands to [China/Pakistan].

  • None of those options.

  • I don’t know.

Dependent Variables: Likely Consequences of Concessions

What are the likely consequences of India’s decision to give up two of the three islands to [China/Pakistan]? Please tell me how likely each of these consequences is:

Very unlikelySomewhat unlikelyNeither likely not unlikelySomewhat likelyVery likely
[China/Pakistan] will feel emboldened and make further territorial demands12345
You will feel anger following this decision.12345
You will consider it to be a national embarrassment.12345

General Demographics

Age: In what year were you born?

Gender: Are you male or female?

  • Male

  • Female

Education: What is the highest level of education that you have received? 

  • No formal education.

  • Incomplete Primary School.

  • Complete Primary School.

  • Incomplete Secondary School: technical/vocational type.

  • Complete Secondary School: technical/vocational type.

  • Incomplete Secondary School: university-preparatory type.

  • Complete Secondary School: university-preparatory type.

  • Some University-Level Education, without degree.

  • University-Level Education, with degree.

Income: How do you feel about your income these days? Which of the following statements comes closest to how you feel?

  • I am living comfortably on my present income.

  • I am coping on my present income.

  • I am finding it difficult on my present income.

  • I cannot survive on my present income.

Ideology: In politics people sometimes talk of “left” and “right.” Where would you place yourself on this scale, where 0 means the left and 10 means the right?

LeftRight
01234567891088 Don’t know

Interest in Politics: Some people seem to follow what is going on in government and public affairs most of the time, whether there’s an election going on or not. Others aren’t that interested. How about you? How frequently do you follow what’s going on in government and public affairs?

  1. Most of the Time.

  2. Some of the Time.

  3. Only Now and Then.

  4. Hardly at All.

  5. Never.

Voting History: In talking to people about elections, we often find that a lot of people were not able to vote because they weren’t registered, they were sick, or they just didn’t have time. How about the parliamentary elections in 2014? Did you vote for a candidate during these elections?

  1. Yes, I voted.

  2. No, I didn’t vote.

  3. I don’t remember.

Filter Question 1: Research in decision making shows that people, when making decisions and answering questions, prefer not to pay attention and minimize their effort as much as possible. Some studies show that over 50% of people don’t carefully read questions. If you are reading this question and have read all the other questions, please select the box marked “other.” Do not select “foreign policy,” “domestic politics,” or “conflict management.” Thank you for participating and taking the time to read through the questions carefully! What is this study about?

  1. Domestic Politics

  2. Foreign policy

  3. Conflict Management

  4. Other

Filter Question 2: How are you feeling right now? Although we would like to know how you are feeling, please select the second option below so we know you are paying attention.

  1. Happy

  2. Sad

  3. Anxious

  4. Other

Filter Question 3: While watching television, have you ever had a fatal heart attack?

  1. Often

  2. Some of the time

  3. Only now and then

  4. Hardly at all

  5. Never

Table 4:

Robustness checks – controlling for treatment and demographics (China).

(Ordered) Logistic RegressionModel A1

Concessions
Model A2

Concessions

(binary)
Model A3

Fairness
Model A4

Commitment

Problems
Model A5

Anger
Model A6

Embarrassment
Treatment (Court-Condition = 1)1.092**

(0.247)
1.543**

(0.332)
0.680*

(0.335)
0.448*

(0.244)
0.009

(0.240)
0.463*

(0.240)
Age0.098

(0.146)
0.163

(0.190)
−0.023

(0.209)
0.353*

(0.152)
0.092

(0.148)
0.340*

(0.149)
Gender (Male 1/0)−0.401

(0.292)
−0.167

(0.358)
−0.133

(0.408)
0.187

(0.291)
0.249

(0.288)
0.777*

(0.296)
Education−0.093

(0.130)
−0.134

(0.154)
−0.086

(0.166)
0.059

(0.130)
−0.199

(0.122)
−0.201

(0.123)
Income−0.031

(0.146)
−0.101

(0.186)
0.327

(0.200)
0.060

(0.149)
0.070

(0.148)
0.323*

(0.147)
Ideology−0.072

(0.053)
−0.065

(0.066)
−0.061

(0.068)
−0.051

(0.053)
0.011

(0.053)
−0.011

(0.053)
Voter0.367

(0.320)
0.082

(0.406)
0.020

(0.469)
−0.466

(0.319)
−0.136

(0.311)
−0.289

(0.312)
Religion (Hindu = 1)0.214

(0.300)
−0.159

(0.372)
0.663

(0.409)
0.176

(0.300)
−0.213

(0.295)
−0.317

(0.292)
Interest in Politics0.273*

(0.149)
0.351*

(0.188)
0.291

(0.204)
−0.352**

(0.150)
−0.412**

(0.157)
−0.254*

(0.151)
Trust in China−0.915**

(0.192)
−0.473*

(0.236)
−1.449**

(0.277)
0.541**

(0.183)
0.609**

(0.188)
1.128**

(0.195)
Threat Perception (China)−0.130

(0.169)
−0.367*

(0.203)
−0.168

(0.212)
0.456**

(0.162)
0.609**

(0.163)
0.101

(0.161)
Constant1.726 (1.802)3.805 (1.931)
Cut Point 1−4.200 (1.454)0.181 (1.518)−1.304 (1.421)−0.576 (1.452)
Cut Point 2−2.562 (1.439)1.662 (1.503)−0.203 (1.410)1.121 (1.444)
Cut Point 3−2.101 (1.437)2.645 (1.502)1.206 (1.408)2.230 (1.446)
Cut Point 40.179 (1.445)4.449 (1.520)2.606 (1.418)4.000 (1.461)
Number of Observations241241214240241241
Log-Likelihood−317.74−126.51−111.56−308.31−327.54−323.59

  1. *p ≤ 0.05, **p ≤ 0.01 in a one-tailed test.

Table 5:

Robustness checks – controlling for treatment and demographics (Pakistan).

(Ordered) Logistic RegressionModel A7

Concessions
Model A8

Concessions

(binary)
Model A9

Fairness
Model A10

Commitment

Problems
Model A11

Anger
Model A12

Embarrassment
Treatment (Court-Condition = 1)0.969**

(0.251)
1.314**

(0.345)
0.796**

(0.312)
0.147

(0.244)
−0.508*

(0.242)
0.573**

(0.243)
Age0.101

(0.155)
0.177

(0.211)
0.124

(0.191)
−0.103*

(0.154)
−0.121

(0.148)
0.062

(0.150)
Gender (Male 1/0)−0.406

(0.292)
−0.315

(0.398)
−0.412

(0.354)
0.640*

(0.296)
0.238

(0.290)
0.814**

(0.284)
Education0.175

(0.160)
0.372*

(0.226)
0.039

(0.210)
−0.051

(0.141)
−0.168

(0.147)
−0.234

(0.150)
Income−0.082

(0.137)
0.020

(0.184)
0.215

(0.166)
−0.139

(0.137)
0.024

(0.132)
−0.103

(0.133)
Ideology−0.126**

(0.053)
−0.130*

(0.070)
−0.065

(0.065)
−0.017

(0.054)
0.019

(0.052)
0.061

(0.053)
Voter−0.263

(0.364)
−0.116

(0.520)
0.709

(0.546)
−0.002

(0.367)
0.784*

(0.361)
0.320

(0.369)
Religion (Hindu = 1)−0.728

(0.289)
−0.993**

(0.382)
−0.192

(0.378)
0.406

(0.286)
0.046

(0.286)
−0.147

(0.280)
Interest in Politics−0.014

(0.158)
−0.220

(0.217)
0.125

(0.202)
−0.167

(0.153)
0.049

(0.155)
−0.032

(0.152)
Trust in Pakistan−0.639**

(0.171)
−0.629**

(0.226)
−0.600**

(0.216)
0.644**

(0.172)
0.623**

(0.171)
0.423**

(0.170)
Threat Perception (Pakistan)−0.238

(0.197)
−0.412

(0.256)
−0.070

(0.239)
0.341*

(0.191)
0.539**

(0.190)
0.237

(0.185)
Constant0.394 (2.190)0.527 (2.201)
Cut Point 1−3.492 (1.700)−0.092 (1.545)0.774 (1.557)−1.315 (1.597)
Cut Point 2−2.169 (1.690)1.214 (1.531)1.946 (1.553)0.032 (1.589)
Cut Point 3−1.687 (1.688)2.010 (1.535)2.960 (1.561)0.929 (1.588)
Cut Point 40.968 (1.692)3.677 (1.552)4.196 (1.576)2.345 (1.592)
Number of Observations237237205237235235
Log-Likelihood−313.39−112.43−125.96−312.79−338.48−343.23

  1. *p ≤ 0.05, **p ≤ 0.01 in a one-tailed test.

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Published Online: 2017-8-8

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