Human Rights

Dr Tom Kerns













Discussion Questions for
Public Opinion Research on Human Rights in the US
by Belden Russonello & Stewart



  1. In the second paragraph on p 2 the authors tell us that “eight in ten (81%) Americans agree ‘we should strive to uphold human rights in the U.S. because there are people being denied their human rights in our country.’”

    And yet in the third paragraph on p 2 the authors say “only one in four (27%) believes the country should be moving “aggressively” in this direction and half the nation (50%) believes we should move “cautiously” trying to make regular progress on human rights problems.” What do you make of this? What do you think environmental activists should make of this?

  2. At the top of p 3 the authors tell us that 68% of respondents “strongly” believe that “living in a clean environment” should be seen as a human right. In your judgment would you consider this significant?

  3. At the bottom of p 3 we are told that “Americans see government as a protector and provider of human rights...” Do you see this as consonant with any of our readings this quarter? Please explain.

  4. In the bottom paragraph on p 4 the authors tell us that “Americans are split about the U.S. signing on to international treaties and the effectiveness of the United Nations.” What do you make of this? How do you think it fits with what we learn in the first line on p 1, that “The American public embraces the concept of human rights for all people”?

  5. On p 5, top paragraph, we see that “two-thirds agree (67%) that the U.N. ‘is not an effective enforcer of human rights around the world.’” What do you make of this in light of the human rights instruments we have studied this quarter?

  6. In the third paragraph on p 5 we see that

    ‘• Two-thirds (64%) agree with the statement that “people in the U.S. should not try to interpret and enforce human rights for people living in other countries.’
    • More than half (55%) agree that ‘because of different cultures and values, it is impossible to have rights that apply to everyone in the world.’”

    If you had taken this survey, would you have agreed or disagreed with those two statements? Please explain.

  7. The authors end the report with six recommendations for human rights advocates. If you had to pick two of those as the most important for environmental human rights advocates, which would you pick? And how do you see those two choices applying to human rights aspects of environmental concerns?