Government Rhetoric and the Representation of Public Opinion in International Negotiations

The role of domestic public opinion is an important topic in research on international negotiations, yet we know little about how exactly it manifests itself. We focus on government rhetoric during negotiations and develop a conceptual distinction between implicit and explicit manifestations of public opinion. Drawing on a database of video recordings of negotiations of the Council of the European Union and a quantitative text analysis of government speeches, we find that public opinion matters implicitly, with the exact pattern depending on governments’ stance toward the EU. Pro-EU governments are responsive to public opinion in their support for compromises and attempts to stall negotiations, whereas Euroskeptic governments tend to remain silent when confronted with a public positively disposed toward the EU. Our results show that although governments implicitly represent public opinion, they do not systematically invoke their voters explicitly, suggesting the public matters but in different ways than often assumed.

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License CC BY
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 140 - IR