Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Political Science


College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Robert Cox


Existing studies suggest that normative commitments to the European Union’s human rights standards remain weak in states applying for EU membership, and that citizens are unresponsive to information the EU provides. This research does not gauge public support for human rights when they are framed as an EU issue. In an original experimental survey of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I examine the effect of EU framing on support for the equal treatment of gay people, equal pay between women and men, and blame assigned to the government for policy outcomes regarding these rights. I find that EU frames affect blame towards the government, which in turn influences support for women’s rights. EU frames produce a negative effect on support for women’s rights among those who support their state’s independence from the EU. Moreover, the EU establishes equal pay for equal work as a criterion for applicant states. Conventional wisdom holds that governments meet criteria for membership in order to gain benefits from membership. In another experimental survey of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I examine the effect of framing equal pay as a criterion for membership. Among those who believe that economic benefits from EU membership are likely, framing gender equality as necessary for EU membership elicited higher levels of support for gender equality, in comparison to those who believe that benefits are unlikely. The EU also has recently set up standards for membership regarding gay rights, but commitment to the standards remains weak. This lack of commitment presents a puzzle for researchers and policymakers: if the EU’s gay rights standards have minimal consequences, then why would anyone want to hand over powers concerning gay rights to the EU? I find that those who identify more closely with gay people are more likely to vote for parties that want to transfer control of gay rights to the EU. Since the EU currently lacks effective gay rights standards, this study establishes an evidence-based imperative for the EU to use its capacities to serve gay constituencies directly, such as providing shelters and counselling for gay people and their families.


© 2016, Douglas Page