Funded by the Swedish Research Council from 2016-2019 (dnr 2015-00948)

Project leader: Lisa Maria Dellmuth




Project description


The power of international organizations (IOs) such as the European Union, United Nations Security Council, and World Health Organization, has expanded considerably in the past three decades, raising questions about the legitimacy of IOs. Legitimacy, understood here as the sum of individual beliefs in the rightful authority of IOs, is central for regional and global governance institutions that can effectively address major policy problems such as the adverse impacts of climate change on human security or unstable global financial markets. Legitimacy is thus a crucial precondition for sustainable global governance. However, since the 1990s, IOs have been substantially contested in domestic political arenas. Especially – but not only – political parties are known to shape public opinion about IOs using different types of political communication, such as press releases, emphatic speeches, and policy papers.


This research project examines when, how, and why political elites influence citizens’ confidence in IOs. Citizens rarely have sufficient time and knowledge to form independent and stable opinions about IOs, making them susceptible to elite communication. Drawing on framing and legitimacy theory, this project develops hypotheses about the conditions under which political elites frame IOs effectively, and tests them through original survey experiments and existing large-scale survey datasets such as the World Values Survey and the Eurobarometer. The data analysis focuses on a number of regional and global organizations involved in economic governance, environmental governance, human security governance, and regional governance.


In all, the project will provide domestic and international policy-makers with evidence on how they can enhance IOs’ legitimacy, and by extension, the ability of IOs to engage in sustainable governance by achieving compliance with internationally prescribed policy and reforms. The project thus makes a timely contribution to our understanding of how democratic competition and political attitudes constrain the ability of political elites to shape the public’s confidence in IOs.



Peer-review publications


Dellmuth, L.M. and Chalmers, A.W., “All spending is not equal: European Union public spending, policy feedback, and citizens’ support for the EU”, European Journal of Political Research, 57 (2018), pp. 3–23.


Dellmuth, L.M., “The knowledge gap in world politics: Assessing the sources of citizen awareness of the United Nations Security Council”, Review of International Studies, 42:2 (2016), pp. 673–700.


Dellmuth, L.M., “Individual Sources of Legitimacy Beliefs: Theory and Data”, in Legitimacy in Global Governance: Sources, Processes, and Consequences, ed. by J. Tallberg, K. Bäckstrand and J.A. Scholte (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

Peer-reviewed conference papers


Why national and international legitimacy are linked: Effects of social trust, paper presented at the 10th Annual Conference on The Political Economy of International Organizations, Bern, January 12–14, 2017, with Jonas Tallberg.


Online blogs


Dellmuth, L.M. and Chalmers, A.W. “How the EU can increase public support for the EU through spending”,, January 2018.


Dellmuth, L.M. “Assessing knowledge inequality in global governance”, LegGov (Legitimacy in Global Governance), December 2016. leggov/blog/assessing-knowledge-inequality-in-global-governance-1.308551.





The sources of popular legitimacy in global governance, paper presented at the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), San Francisco, August 31 – September 3, 2017, with Jan Aart Scholte and Jonas Tallberg (presented by Jan Aart Scholte and Jonas Tallberg).


Institutional sources of popular legitimacy in global governance, paper presented at the 58th Annual Convention of the International Studies Association (ISA), Baltimore, Maryland, February 22–25, 2017, with Jan Aart Scholte and Jonas Tallberg (presented by Jan Aart Scholte).


Why national and international legitimacy are linked: Effects of social trust, paper presented at the 10th General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), Prague, September 7–10, 2016, with Jonas Tallberg.


Advocacy strategies in global governance: Inside vs. outside lobbying, paper presented at the 112th APSA Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, September 1–4, 2016, with Jonas Tallberg (presented by Jonas Tallberg).


What drives the association between domestic and international legitimacy?, paper presented at the 44th ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, Pisa, April 24–28, 2016, with Jonas Tallberg.



Invited talks


Juni 2016 Brexit as an ‘alarm clock’ (Brexit som ‘väckarklocka’ – men för vad?). Talk in Swedish for policy-makers and civil society representatives at the municipality of Södertälje.


December 2016 Why do some people trust global governance institutions but others don’t? Talk at the Department of Political Science at the University of Tampere.


Other activities


ECPR Joint Sessions, 8-12 April 2019: Legitimacy in Global Governance: Elite Communication, Populist Rhetoric, and (De-)legitimation Practices. Workshop directors: Bernd Schlipphak and Lisa Dellmuth. To apply, please go to