Measuring human rights organization influence: Evidence from 120,000 press releases and 30,000 congressional bills
To what extent do human rights organizations (HROs) influence governments? HROs occupy a central role in theoretical and empirical work on social control, human rights, and repression. The literature argues that HROs play a large role in shaping rights practices across countries. According to this view, HROs primarily influence rights practices by naming and shaming the abuses of rights violators via public pronouncements. This influence can come directly or indirectly, as HROs mobilize rights respecting countries to oppose violators. In this paper, we examine the degree to which HROs shape U.S. government responses to rights violators. To do this, we use a dataset of (a) over 120,000 press releases issued from 1996-2018 by 10 international HROs (b) and the texts of more than 30,000 congressional bills. Through several automatic text analyses techniques, we find that HROs appear to help direct the international human rights agenda of the U.S. congress. Our results have important implications for the literatures on social control, human rights, agenda setting, and foreign policy.