The latest survey of over 1,000 US adults conducted on behalf of the American Bar Association’s International Criminal Court (ICC) Project shows no significant shift in American knowledge concerning the ICC and its work. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans report knowing “nothing at all” about the ICC when asked, and 15% of US adults report knowing “a fair amount” or “a great deal”. This self-reported lack of knowledge is fairly consistent across demographic groups, with younger people slightly more likely to indicate they know more about the ICC.
Almost two-thirds (64%) indicate that they ‘don’t know’ if the United States is a current member of the ICC, although this halves to under a third (31%) among those individuals who know at least a little bit about the ICC.
Perceptions of the Court and US Membership
This fourth wave of the research does find that there has been a slow but steady trend over the past two years towards increasing US involvement in the ICC. The wave-to-wave changes are too small to be statistically significant on their own, but the shift in attitudes over time is notable in the chart overleaf. Indeed, the percent of Americans who agree that “the US should become more engaged and involved in the ICC without becoming a member by making all forms of our vast governmental resources available to support the work of the ICC” has shifted from 28% in February 2014 to 33%, a steady increase over the past two years.
Furthermore, while just over one in five (22%) agreed that the “US should become a full member of the International Criminal Court and robustly support all of its work” almost two years ago, the figure now sits at 27%, again with steady increase over the time period. In comparison, the percent of Americans who agree that “joining the ICC would compromise America’s sovereignty as a nation” has declined two points per wave over the past two waves, now at 24%.
While these findings are indicative only and should be treated with caution, they do suggest the possibility of a slow shift in American attitudes on this issue.
Trend on U.S. Membership in the ICC
Notwithstanding their lack of familiarity with the ICC, Americans remain very supportive of the idea of the United States being involved with international institutions that have a direct impact on human rights and provide justice for those who commit mass atrocities. A majority (60%) agree that “it is important for the United States to participate in international organizations that support human rights and that hold individuals accountable for mass atrocities.”
Furthermore, over half (52%) remain in agreement that the US should “dedicate US resources (financial, military, intelligence, etc.) to international organizations that support human rights and that hold individuals responsible for mass atrocities.”
However, concerns do exist, with a quarter (24%) expressing concern that “joining international organizations concerned with human rights and holding individuals accountable for mass atrocities is a risk to the US because it could hurt our autonomy”. Among those who are familiar with the ICC, this number rises to 40%.
In addition, one in five (20%) simply do not agree that it is in “our best interests to dedicate US resources (financial, military, intelligence, etc.)” to supporting the work of the ICC.
International Arrest Warrants and the African Union Conference
This wave of the survey asked two questions focused on the issue of the ICC’s arrest warrant for the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir for his alleged participation in genocide and other international atrocity crimes in Darfur, and his attendance at the African Union Conference and the immunity from arrest he received there as a visiting Head of State.
The first survey question asked broadly about attitudes to the application of immunity laws for visiting Heads of State from international arrest warrants, without any reference to al-Bashir. Over half (51%) of respondents did not have an opinion, but the remainder divided more than 2:1 in favor of honoring arrest warrants issued by international courts over the immunity laws of an individual country. However, among those with some awareness of the ICC, the findings were almost a tie, with 33% in favor of domestic immunity holding, and 38% in favor of deference to an arrest warrant issued by an international court.
The second question focused on the issue of Bashir and his visit to South Africa specifically, and this found far more support for having arrested Bashir. While almost half (44%) of the general public still did not have an opinion, most of the remainder (45%) felt Bashir should have been arrested, and just 11% agreed that it was right to honor the immunity afforded him by South Africa’s laws regarding visiting Heads of State. A similar finding, with the majority in favor of arrest (59%) was found among those with awareness of the ICC.
 The ICC was subsequently defined for respondents as follows: The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the world’s only permanent international tribunal created by a treaty for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity (mass atrocities). Currently, 123 countries are members of the International Criminal Court. The United States formally announced in 2002 that it would not become a member of the International Criminal Court for a multitude of reasons, including questions about the court’s jurisdiction and structure.
Methodology and Technical Details
-These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of the American Bar Association from November 16-18, 2015. The previous waves of the study were conducted from February 21-24, 2014 and from December 4-8, 2014. For these surveys, Ipsos undertook online surveys of 1,003; 1,005; 1,004; and 1,005 adults, respectively. Weighting then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the U.S. adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls because they are based on samples drawn from opt-in online panels, not on random samples that mirror the population within a statistical probability ratio. The credibility interval for a sample size of 1,003 is +3.5 percentage points. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error. For more information about credibility intervals, please see the appendix.
-The national sample of 1,003 was weighted by gender, age, region, ethnicity, education, and party identification. The sample of 363 Opinion Leaders was weighted by gender, age, region, ethnicity, and party identification. Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error.
- These slides also contain some data filtered on just those respondents reporting that they know ‘A great deal’, ‘A fair amount’, or ‘ A little bit’ about the ICC at Q1 (cutting out those who say they know ‘Nothing at all’). This reduced the filtered base size to 379, and is referred to in the data as ‘Aware of ICC’ audience.
- Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls because they are based on samples drawn from opt-in online panels, not on random samples that mirror the population within a statistical probability ratio. - All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.
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