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International Law and Attitudes Toward Refugees: A Field Experiment in Turkey
Last registered on September 25, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
International Law and Attitudes Toward Refugees: A Field Experiment in Turkey
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002439
Initial registration date
September 23, 2017
Last updated
September 25, 2017 2:19 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Virginia
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2017-09-23
End date
2018-02-28
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Where refugees go, how they fare when they get there, and how they impact the receiving state economically and politically are a function of international institutions, including norms, laws, and practice. Yet no experimental studies to date have examined how international norms affect the willingness of refugee-receiving state citizens to accept refugees. Given this gap in the literature, this study attempts to determine how refugee-related international norms shape citizens' attitudes toward their country's accepting large numbers of them. The study uses a survey experiment conducted via approximately 1150 face-to-face interviews throughout Turkey in September 2017. The survey experiment tells respondents about a hypothetical new Turkish policy that would deny entry to any new Syrian refugees and asks them how much they support it. In describing the refugee situation, the experiment randomly varies part of the description, giving the respondents one of five statements about how international norms promote or discourage accepting the refugees. The collected data will be used to test a series of hypotheses about the normative and coercive effect of international law on citizens' attitudes toward state foreign policy.

External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Cope, Kevin. 2017. "International Law and Attitudes Toward Refugees: A Field Experiment in Turkey." AEA RCT Registry. September 25. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2439-1.0.
Former Citation
Cope, Kevin. 2017. "International Law and Attitudes Toward Refugees: A Field Experiment in Turkey." AEA RCT Registry. September 25. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2439/history/21759.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2017-09-23
Intervention End Date
2017-09-24
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The outcome is the degree to which the respondent supports "the government [of Turkey]'s proposed new policy to start turning away additional refugees from Syria."
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The respondents are told about refugees in Turkey, specifically, the following (translated into Turkish): "You know people are migrating to other countries because of the civil war in Syria. Turkey has already accepted more than 3 million refugees. But people still continue to migrate to Turkey and other countries. This issue has been discussed very much in Turkey. Suppose that the government of Turkey has decided not to accept any new refugees, and if this policy is passed, from the next month, Turkey will close the doors to the newly arrived Syrians and force them to return to Syria or to seek refuge elsewhere."

The survey then asks respondents how much they support the new policy. In describing the refugee situation, the experiment randomly varies part of the description, telling the respondents: (1) nothing about international norms (control); (2) that international treaty law requires Turkey to accept all new refugees; (3) that Turkey has promised other countries that it will accept the refugees, (4) that international law does not require Turkey to accept the refugees; and (5) that many other countries in the Middle East and Europe have and will continue to accept the refugees.
Experimental Design Details
The first part of the survey asks the respondents a series of questions about themselves. This includes both a series of standard demographic questions and a set of questions to tests the respondents' knowledge in areas relevant to the survey. The questions on the respondents' demographics include: gender, age, level of education, religious observance, and, as a measure of political ideology, which party they supported in Turkey's most recent parliamentary elections. The surveyors also record the region and size of community where the respondent lives. The survey also asks the respondents' personal exposure to refugees. The second part of the survey presents the experimental vignette. The respondents are told about refugees in Turkey, specifically, the following (translated into Turkish): "You know people are migrating to other countries because of the civil war in Syria. Turkey has already accepted more than 3 million refugees. But people still continue to migrate to Turkey and other countries. This issue has been discussed very much in Turkey. Suppose that the Turkish government decided to not accept the new-coming refugees anymore." I had several objectives in crafting the vignette. The first was to keep the treatment short, as the survey was conducted in face-to-face interviews, and one concern is that people do not keep focus on long statements that are read out to them. The survey firm KONDA emphasized this point, based on their extensive experience in Turkey. Second, I decided not to give them the arguments for and against accepting refugees. The reason is that these arguments are complicated and many people are familiar with them anyway. Also, giving these arguments would add so much additional language to the vignette that it would be hard for people to process, increasing the risk that the treatments would get lost in that information. The survey experiment comprises five variations (four treatments and one control) and differ in just one respect: to what extent international law or norms promote Turkey's continuing to accept refugees. The outcome is the degree to which the respondent supports "the government’s proposed new policy to start turning away additional refugees from Syria." The first version, which provides no information on international norms, is intended as a control.The second version, that international law requires Turkey to accept refugees, is intended to test the effect of binding international law on citizens' foreign policy preferences. This treatment will be effective in promoting willingness to accept refugees if and only if respondents view international law as a constraining force-- either because they expect that non-compliance will trigger sanctions (through international shaming, ostracizing, economic, or military), because violating it would be immoral, or because its widespread acceptance signals that complying would also be desirable for Turkey. The third version, that Turkey is one of many countries that has promised other countries to accept all arriving refugees, is intended to test the effect of people's valuing upholding international commitments. This treatment is similar to the international law treatment above, but it emphasizes the effect of voluntary, "bottom-up" commitment, as opposed to the "top-down" imposition of rules on a country and its citizens. The fourth version, that many other countries have accepted refugees and plan to continue doing so, is intended to test the effect of acculturation, or people taking some action because others are taking it. The fifth version, that Turkey is not obligated under international law to accept all arriving refugees, is -- like the second version -- intended to test the effect of the effect of binding international law on citizens' foreign policy preferences, but in the negative. This treatment will be effective in reducing willingness to accept refugees if and only respondents view international law as a constraining force, and knowing that it does not constrain shapes their view on the policy for one reasons above (sanctions, morality, or signaling).
Randomization Method
The surveyors cycle through the five treatments in order, ensuring that each of the five treatments is administered approximately the same number of times, distributed broadly throughout the trial period.
Randomization Unit
The unit of randomization is individuals.
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Not clustered
Sample size: planned number of observations
1150 respondents (+/- 5%) will be interviewed face-to-face in 65 neighborhoods and villages in 22 to 26 provinces.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Approximately 230 individuals per treatment arm
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Institutional Review Board for the Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Virginia
IRB Approval Date
2017-09-07
IRB Approval Number
2017-0370-00
Analysis Plan

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Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS