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Who Thinks Rights Are Respected in the US?

Who Thinks Rights Are Respected in the US?

What do ordinary Americans think about the state of human rights and civil rights in their country? How bad, or good, do they think things are, and why does it matter? Our Survey My colleague Howard Lavine and I surveyed US public opinion in fall 2018 with the help of YouGov, a leading survey firm. Through them, we recruited a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults who had signed up with the survey group to answer online questions. YouGov’s team contacted each respondent twice, interviewing each in two waves of 22 and 24 minutes, on average. The median response rate was 86%. To achieve a nationally representative sample, YouGov weighted the 2,000 strong sample by gender, age, race, and education. We split these 2,000 respondents into two equal parts and asked the first about their perception of respect for “human rights” in the U.S. and asked the second about their perception of respect for “civil rights.” We found no meaningful difference between the two, and thus report on both combined. For this question, the 0.95% confidence interval was +/- 1.4%. As Table 1 indicates, most (61%) of the general population sample – represented by the green bars – told us that human/civil rights were reasonably well respected, as these respondents told You Gov that civil/human rights in the U.S. were either respected “some” (38%) or “a lot” (23%). The remainder – 39% – said that rights were respected either “a little” (27%) or “not at all” (12%). We rescaled perceived level of respect for human rights to 0-1 for statistical purposes, in which 0 = “rights are not at...
Global Reputation of the Belt and Road Initiative, Part Two

Global Reputation of the Belt and Road Initiative, Part Two

In an earlier post, I wrote briefly about public opinion in the developing world towards China’s Belt and Road initiative. Much more remains to be said, and I’m going through the literature carefully to summarize what we know. Eventually, my company, Azimuth Social Research, will write a report with our colleagues at OnGlobalLeadership, a consulting and thought leadership firm specializing in China.  For the moment, I want to talk about US expert opinion towards China’s massive infrastructural investment in low-and-middle-income countries, as well as the US government’s nascent response.  US Experts’ Ambivalence Although there is plenty of public opinion data from Pew and others on the American public’s attitudes towards China in general, I have yet to find substantial data on US public attitudes towards the Belt and Road Initiative in particular. I’m still looking, but there doesn’t seem to be much. And if my own social and professional circles are anything to go by, most Americans have never even heard of BRI, making it hard to ask for their views. People in this country know that China is on the move economically but think mostly about its investments in the US and Europe, rather than in Asia, the Middle East, or Africa.  The US foreign policy community is a different beast, of course, as it is both socialized and paid to have well-formed opinions about this kind of thing. In 2016, a report by the Institute for China-America Studies “on the attitudes of strategic studies and international political economy experts” towards the Belt and Road Initiative suggested that “the overall response [of these experts] to BRI” was at...

From Qual to Quant and Back

I started my research career as a research consultant for Human Rights Watch in Israel and the Palestinian territories. My “data” came from what qualitative research:  lengthy, face-to-face interviews with knowledgeable people such as politicians, lawyers, human rights activists and ordinary citizens who have either witnessed, or personally experienced, interesting events. (There are other kinds of qualitative research, of course – focus groups, ethnography, journal entries, and more). Interview-based research is physically and emotionally demanding. It requires building a network of contacts to gain access to the right people; persuading those people to trust and speak with you, often for hours; engaging in emotionally intense, face-to-face discussions; carefully building trust and rapport; and then analyzing piles of typed transcripts, scribbled notes, or taped conversations. You either furiously write during the interview while also trying to listen, engage, and come up with new questions, or desperately try to remember as many details as you can to record in writing later. Sometimes, you are lucky enough to tape the conversation and even hire someone to produce a written transcript. Then, however, you are faced with hundreds of pages to wade through. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s I did interviews of this sort in multiple countries. Often, I used a translator, which adds complexity to the rapport-building exercise but also gives you more time to take notes during the interview, a research companion to talk about the work, and someone to help you navigate the process of finding the right people to speak with. My first translator was a Palestinian journalist, Walid Battrawi, now an important media figure in Ramallah, capital...