Language of Rights January 05, 2021

Talking about Human Rights

UK Equality and Human Rights Commission

Survey research analyzing how British adults think about human rights.

This paper summarizes the findings of a 2018 study on public attitudes towards human rights by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Although the study is narrowly focused on the attitudes and attributes of people across the UK, we found several of the paper’s insights into the ‘language of rights’ broadly applicable. First, researchers found that ‘the language of rights’ is rarely employed by the general public– people are much more likely to talk about equality. A lack of awareness of rights topics may contribute to this gap, as just 45% of the British population reported having ‘a fair amount of knowledge’ about human rights.

Second, researchers found that people need to feel that human rights are relevant to their lives in order to value them. This suggests that rights movements and organisations could expand their base if they are able to connect with the topics that people already care about and use them as a point of entry into a broader conversation about rights.

Third, many people experience campaign fatigue. Approaching a rights conversation through familiar issues and topics was shown to reduce the intellectual and emotional labor required to engage.

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