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Human Rights and Public Opinion: From Attitudes to Action

Listed author(s):
  • Shareen Hertel

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Lyle Scruggs

    (University of Connecticut)

  • C. Patrick Heidkamp

    (Southern Connecticut State University)

This paper investigates American public opinion supporting human rights and willingness to engage in economic behavior consistent with such support. We look at three types of rights in particular: freedom of expression, freedom from torture, and the right to a guaranteed minimum standard of living. The current literature on human rights largely ignores public opinion, and vice versa. Based on our analysis of a 2006 national survey, we find that more Americans believe in a broader range of human rights (including economic rights) than has previously been assumed. We also find that most Americans report that they are willing to spend more on goods produced ethically and that those who are supportive of human rights may be more willing to pay for such goods. Our findings have implications for theories and practice of human rights, and for development of new markets for ethical consumption.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute in its series Economic Rights Working Papers with number 3.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2007
Date of revision: Apr 2008
Handle: RePEc:uct:ecriwp:3
Note: The authors gratefully acknowledge the research support of Rachel Jackson and the assistance of staff of the University of Connecticut Center for Survey Research and Analysis as well as the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. We have also benefited from the comments on earlier drafts of this article from members of the University of Connecticut Economic Rights Reading Group/Human Rights Institute, and from Dawn Brancati and Davita Glasberg.
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References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Kimberly Ann. Elliott & Richard B. Freeman, 2004. "White Hats or Don Quixotes? Human Rights Vigilantes in the Global Economy," NBER Chapters,in: Emerging Labor Market Institutions for the Twenty-First Century, pages 47-98 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Matthew Carlson & Ola Listhaug, 2007. "Citizens' Perceptions of Human Rights Practices: An Analysis of 55 Countries," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 44(4), pages 465-483, July.
  3. Loureiro, Maria L. & Lotade, Justus, 2005. "Do fair trade and eco-labels in coffee wake up the consumer conscience?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 129-138, April.
  4. Margaret Levi & April Linton, 2003. "Fair Trade: A Cup at a Time?," Politics & Society, , vol. 31(3), pages 407-432, September.
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