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Human Rights

Human Rights in General

A strong majority believes in the idea of universal human rights. However, awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is low. A majority believes the world is not making enough progress on human rights, and a majority has positive perceptions of the human rights movement.

A majority feels insufficient progress is being made worldwide on protecting human rights. In Gallup International’s End of Year Poll 2004, 53% of Americans said the world is not making enough progress on improving/maintaining human rights, while 44% said the world is making enough progress in this area. [1]

A strong majority believes in the idea of universal human rights that are intrinsic, rather than granted by governments. A November 1997 Hart Research poll asked, "Do you believe that every person has basic rights that are common to all human beings, regardless of whether their government recognizes those rights or not, or do you believe that rights are given to an individual by his or her government?" Three-fourths (76%) said that every person has such rights, while 17% said that such rights are granted by governments. [2]

At the same time, awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is low. Asked by Hart Research in November 1997 whether "there is an official document that sets forth human rights for everyone worldwide," only 8% named the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, in a subsequent question, when told of the existence of the Declaration, another 24% said they had previously been aware of it. [3]

Also, in the same poll, 83% said that the fact that the US has agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a very (53%) or fairly (30%) strong reason for the US to do "more to protect human rights in the US." [4]

The human rights movement and human rights groups appear to be viewed positively by Americans. In a June 2002 Chicago Council on Foreign Relations survey, when asked to rate "international human rights groups" on a 0 to 100 ”thermometer” scale, the mean response was 63 degrees. Fifty-five percent gave a rating over 50 while just 19% gave a rating below the midpoint. When domestic human rights groups are included, attitudes are more positive. Asked in a May 1990 Gallup poll how they feel about the "human rights movement at home or abroad," an overwhelming 90% said they approved of it, with 49% saying they approved strongly. [5]

In the November 1997 Hart Research poll, a robust 39% said they had "given money or volunteered with a human rights organization." [6]

In September 1998, Research/Strategy/Management and Columbia University conducted a study about the public's views of different types of spokespersons, and asked "how credible … you think they are … when they speak out on sending United States forces to fight abroad." Sixty percent said that "a representative of a human rights organization" was very (16%) or somewhat (44%) credible on this topic. Respondents rated human rights spokespersons slightly higher than, for instance, "a nationally recognized civil rights leader" (55%) or "a nationally syndicated news columnist" (57%), but lower than a member of Congress (76%) or "an expert on foreign policy" (87%). [7]



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Recent Data Updates
Human Rights - August 2008 (PDF)