The Legitimacy of International Institutions among Rising and Established Powers

Jonas Tallberg*, Soetkin Verhaegen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The expectation that state voice drives perceptions of the legitimacy of international institutions is a common theme in academic scholarship and policy discourse on global power shifts. This article tests this expectation empirically, using novel and unique survey data on legitimacy perceptions toward eight international institutions among political and societal elites in six countries, comprising both rising and established powers. The article finds only limited support for a link between a state’s voice in an international institution and elite perceptions of legitimacy. Differences in formal state representation are only partly reflected in patterns of perceived legitimacy across the six countries. In addition, there is no evidence at the individual level that assessments of state voice shape elites’ perceptions of institutional legitimacy. Instead, considerations of good governance best predict whether elites perceive of international institutions as more or less legitimate. These findings suggest that only institutional reforms which are seen to favor general qualities of good governance, and not narrow demands for state voice, are likely to be rewarded with greater legitimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-126
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Policy
Issue numberS3
Early online date15 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes




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