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American Opinion on Foreign Aid

February 22, 2011

Does the average American favor foreign aid? Do most Americans think aid is used in the right way and for the right reasons?

At a time when the American economy is juggling with the problem of budget deficit, it’s hard to imagine that Americans support development assistance to the poor abroad. Aside from the conventional wisdom of helping developing nations as a moral responsibility, most Americans perceive that development aid also fosters democracy as reported (here) by Council of Foreign Relations.

Additionally, Americans comprehend the importance of helping farmers in developing countries as supported by a recent survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs revealing that the American public voted for directing U.S. aid to poor farmers in the developing countries.  This coincides with a survey done in 2001 by PIPA which showed that majority American supported hunger aid.The survey also revealed that the American public believes that involvement of private sector can help maintain the accountability of aid. However, most doubt the effectiveness of foreign aid questioning whether it has yielded the desired results. (Click here for details)

Surprisingly, the common misconception that aid makes up a large portion of the U.S. budget lingers on.  In a recent survey conducted by World Public Opinion, the median response of foreign aid as percent of total budget was 25% while the desired budget has been consistent at 10% since the year 2004. In reality, the total of foreign aid comprises just 1% of the total budget. The staggering difference in opinion alarms the need for raising more public awareness in terms of foreign policy and aid.

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