Elite attitudes and the future of global governance

Jan Aart Scholte*, Soetkin Verhaegen, Jonas Tallberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article examines what contemporary elites think about global governance and what these attitudes might bode for the future of global institutions. Evidence comes from a unique survey conducted in 2017–19 across six elite sectors (business, civil society, government bureaucracy, media, political parties, research) in six countries (Brazil, Germany, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, the United States) and a global group. Bearing in mind some notable variation between countries, elite types, issue-areas and institutions, three main interconnected findings emerge. First, in principle, contemporary leaders in politics and society hold considerable readiness to pursue global-scale governance. Today's elites are not generally in a nationalist-protectionist-sovereigntist mood. Second, in practice, these elites on average hold medium-level confidence towards fourteen current global governance institutions. This evidence suggests that, while there is at present no legitimacy crisis of global governance among elites (as might encourage its decline), neither is there a legitimacy boom (as could spur its expansion). Third, if we probe what elites prioritize when they evaluate global governance, the surveyed leaders generally most underline democracy in the procedures of these bodies and effectiveness in their performance. This finding suggests that, to raise elites' future confidence in global governance, the institutions would do well to become more transparent in their operations and more impactful problem-solvers in their outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)861-886
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Affairs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2021


  • EU defence policy
  • EU foreign policy
  • European Union
  • European security
  • foreign policy

Cite this