from International Institutions and Global Governance Program

U.S. Opinion on Development and Humanitarian Aid

September 04, 2009

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Current political and economic issues succinctly explained.

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Foreign Aid

Polls and Public Opinion

This page is part of Public Opinion on Global Issues. Download this chapter (PDF) or read more about world opinion on development and humanitarian aid.

This publication is now archived.

Development and Humanitarian Aid

The U.S. public, like publics in most other developed nations, expresses support for giving development assistance to poor countries. There is a widespread consensus in the United States that developed countries have a moral responsibility to work to reduce hunger and severe poverty and that helping poor countries develop serves the long-term interests of wealthy countries, including by developing trade partners and enhancing global stability. In addition, Americans perceive development aid as furthering democracy and, for a more modest number of respondents, as a way to fight terrorism. Besides financial aid, large majorities of Americans express a willingness to contribute troops for humanitarian operations, including providing assistance to victims of war and famine. Download full chapter (PDF).

Aid Levels and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

There is a strong consensus among Americans that wealthy nations are not doing enough to help poorer nations. At the same time, less than a majority of U.S. respondents favored increased government spending on aid, or higher taxes to pay for more foreign aid. However, these attitudes are based on extremely exaggerated estimates of how much aid the U.S. government is giving.

In addition, when increased spending is placed in the context of a multilateral effort—specifically the Millennium Development Goal of cutting hunger and severe poverty in half—a large majority of Americans said they would support increasing their spending to the necessary amount to meet the goal, provided other countries do the same. However, public awareness of the MDGs remains low. Download full chapter (PDF).

Role of Multilateral Institutions and Aid to Developing Countries

There is strong U.S. support for multilateral institutions taking the lead in setting aid policies and delivering development assistance, but not in dealing with refugees. Download full chapter (PDF).

Linking Aid to Recipient Country Behavior

Majorities of Americans favor linking the level of aid given to poor countries with a variety of conditions, including the recipient country’s efforts to promote democracy and fight poverty, corruption, and terrorism, though U.S. public support is consistently lower than global support for insisting on these conditions. A large majority also favors giving aid to help poor countries reduce greenhouse gases as part of an agreement wherein they commit to limit the growth of their emissions. Download full chapter (PDF).

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