Public opinion polls on national security issues are often seen as indicators of the strength of international human rights norms. By contrast, we hypothesise that the very act of answering poll questions can weaken citizens’ understandings of important international human rights laws and norms in the very moment they are being measured. We ground this discussion empirically by analysing a new dataset of post-9/11 survey questions on two US national security policies at odds with international human rights norms: ‘enhanced interrogations’ and ‘targeted killing’. In so doing, we encourage a widened research agenda on how international legal and normative understandings are transmitted to the public through surveys. We conclude by highlighting substantive implications for norm scholars and policy implications for norm advocates.
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