Abstract: This article 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 cueing theory, it develops novel hypotheses about the effects of elite communication under the specific conditions of global governance. It tests these hypotheses by conducting a population-based survey experiment 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. Secondly, elite communication affects legitimacy perceptions irrespective of whether it invokes IOs’ procedures or performance as grounds for criticism or endorsement. Thirdly, negative messages are more effective than positive messages in shaping citizens’ legitimacy perceptions. Fourthly, comparing across IOs indicates that elite communication is more often effective in relation to the IMF, NAFTA and WTO, than the EU and UN.