September 10, 2018 | By Craig Kafura

The ICC Is Dead to John Bolton, But Not the Public

In a speech on Monday, September 10, National Security Advisor John Bolton announced a number of hostile policies aimed at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In his first speech as National Security Advisor, made to the Federalist Society, Bolton threatened to sanction ICC judges, bar them from traveling to the US, and use US courts to prosecute them. These restrictions come as the ICC has called for investigating Americans over alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

Said Bolton: “We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. We will not join the ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.”

Established by the Rome Statute in 1998 and established in 2002, the ICC was opposed by then-President George W. Bush, and the US has never ratified the treaty. Bolton, famously focused on international law and strict opposition to multilateralism, has long opposed the ICC, including during his Bush administration tenure as US ambassador to the UN.

However, Bolton’s opposition to the ICC has little support among the broader American public, even among his fellow Republicans. Data from the new 2018 Chicago Council Survey, fielded July 12-31, 2018, finds that three in four Americans (74%) support US participation in the agreement on the International Criminal Court. That includes majorities of Republicans (69%), Democrats (81%), and Independents (73%).

Partisan Views of the International Criminal Court

Nor is this public support for the ICC new. Since the ICC entered into force in 2002, Americans have favored US participation. That support has held steady for the past sixteen years, with roughly seven in ten in support and between two and three in ten opposed.

American Opinion on the International Criminal Court

For more results from the 2018 Chicago Council Survey, subscribe to our regular email updates to get the latest data on American opinion on foreign policy issues.


The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.


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