Attitudes, Globalization, Human Rights, World Polity


Country ratings of human rights conditions are now quite popular in macro comparative analysis. However, little is known as to whether (or to what extent) these scores correspond with mass sentiment in each country. Do “objective” ratings from the Political Terror Scale (PTS) and the Cingranelli-Richards index (CIRI) correspond with “subjective” ratings issued by the public? In this study, I answer this question, drawing from the most recent wave of the World Values Survey (2010 – 2014), in which respondents from 59 countries are asked to assess the level of respect for individual human rights in their country. The findings suggest a mild, but positive, association between objective and subjective ratings, and that the correspondence may be driven, in particular, by incidents of torture. In addition, the results indicate that survey respondents who are male, wealthy, and politically conservative offer significantly higher ratings than other individuals. Finally, the results show that the gap between objective and subjective ratings is smallest among females, the highly educated, and respondents in wealthier nations, suggesting that these evaluations most closely match observed conditions. Overall, while objective ratings highlight between-country differences in human rights conditions, the subjective ratings illustrate the wide range of opinions that exist within countries.