New Poll Finds Overwhelming Support for Efforts to Reduce World Hunger, Aid to Africa
Support for Foreign Aid Grows Dramatically Even Though Public Still Vastly Overestimates Aid Budget
For further information: please contact Steven Kull Re: Polling on World Hunger & Foreign Aid at 202-232-7500
Date: February 2, 2001
COLLEGE PARK, MD -- A comprehensive new study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland has found overwhelming public support for US efforts to reduce world hunger, including a global program to cut hunger in half, and for aid to Africa. Support for foreign aid in general has also grown dramatically in recent years, even though the public continues to vastly overestimate the amount of money spent on foreign aid.
Eighty-three percent of respondents said that the US should be willing to commit to a joint plan for cutting world hunger in half by the year 2015a goal set by the industrialized countries of the OECD, including the US. Seventy-five percent said they would be willing to pay an extra $50 a year in taxes to support such a programsubstantially more than many experts believe would be necessary.
Steven Kull, Director of PIPA, comments, Hunger is something that really moves Americans. Reducing hunger is the purpose for foreign aid that they find most compelling. Seventy-seven percent said they had a positive view of the effort to alleviate hunger.
Consistent with this priority, support for aid to Africa is also very high with 81% wanting to maintain or increase spending on it. Seventy percent rejected the argument that the US should make Africa a lower priority because it has no vital interests there.
The study found that there have also been significant changes in public attitudes about foreign aid in general since PIPAs groundbreaking study on this subject conducted in 1995. In this new poll, only 40% wanted to cut foreign aid, down from 64% in 1995. This change has occurred even though, as in 1995, the public greatly overestimates the portion of the federal budget devoted to aid. The median estimate of this portion was 20%--more than twenty times the actual amount, which is just under 1%. Asked how much should be devoted to aid, the median response was 10%.
The new poll also uncovered the depths of Americans reservations about the US foreign aid program. The median respondent estimated that only 10% of aid money ultimately helps those who need it and half ends up in the pocket of corrupt government officials.
Steven Kull comments, What is striking is the resilience of pubic support for foreign aid. Even though Americans believe that foreign aid is like an extremely leaky bucket with improbably huge amounts being lost to waste and corruption; and even though Americans believe that the US spends an extraordinary amount of money on aid, still the majority supports current spending levels. This suggests that the underlying values in support of aid are quite deep-seated and robust.
To help remedy the amount of aid lost to corruption, 81% said they favored providing aid directly to the needy rather than channeling it through recipient governments. The idea of channeling aid through private charitable organizations is quite popular.
Americans are also dubious about some of the purposes of US aid efforts. While aid that addresses hunger is quite popular, respondents were far less supportive of using aid to increase US influence over other countries. Only a small minority expressed a positive view of military aid and aid to Israel and Egypt.
Other key findings:
· Support for aid to help poor countries goes beyond favoring relief efforts: strong majorities favor helping poor nations develop their economies and rejected arguments that such efforts are futile. By a two-to-one margin respondents said that promoting economic development is in the long-term self-interest of the US because it builds new trading partners.
· Eighty-four percent agreed that, taking care of problems at home is more important than giving foreign aid to other countries. But of all US money that goes to the poor, the average respondent said that 16% should be devoted to the poor abroadthe actual percentage is 4%.
· Only 13% said that spending 1% of the budget on foreign aid would be too much. Only 4% said they wanted to eliminate foreign aid.
· Aid programs that emphasize child survival, education, the Peace Corps, and helping women and girls are especially popular.
· Over the last 15 years support for aid to poor countries has grown, while support for aid to countries that are of strategic interest to the US has dropped. By nearly a two-to-one margin respondents rejected the argument that the US should only send aid to areas of the world where the US has a strategic interest.
This study was made possible by financial support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Tides Foundation. It consisted of focus groups conducted in several cities around the country, a review of polling by other organizations and a nationwide poll of 901 randomly selected adult Americans (margin of errorplus or minus 3-4%).
To view a full copy of the report please see our web site at: www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/BFW/toc.html