Making sense of citizen desire for IO democracy: an analysis of public opinion across 44 countries

Hyo Won Lee, Sijeong Lim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Why do some citizens across the globe prioritize the democracy of international organizations (IOs), while others place more emphasis on their effectiveness? We suggest that this difference in attitude may reflect two distinct perspectives on the subjects of IO democracy: (1) a citizen-centered perspective focusing on substantive citizen representation and IO accountability to citizens and (2) a state-centered perspective centering on fair state representation and IO accountability to member states. We examine these two perspectives among citizens worldwide and determine how these perspectives shape preferences for IO democracy and effectiveness. Our empirical analysis uses the latest wave of the World Values Survey, which covers more than 50,000 individuals across 44 countries for the period 2017−2020. We find that citizens’ democratic activism and the perceived democratic deficit in domestic governance, which we believe to be associated with a citizen-centered perspective in international governance, do not lead to the prioritization of IO democracy. Instead, the underrepresentation of their country in major IOs and confidence in the national government have a significant and positive association with the prioritization of IO democracy. These results suggest that the prioritization of IO democracy expressed by the public primarily reflects a state-centered perspective of international governance rather than a citizen-centered one.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-494
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Jun

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Hyunjin Choi, Chungshik Moon, Youngwan Kim, Howard Sanborn, and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • International organizations (IOs)
  • citizen representation
  • democracy
  • public attitudes
  • state representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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