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Half think aid spending is wasted

Ipsos Global @dvisor Wave 35

Published:20 December 2012
Fieldwork:3 - 17 July 2012
Keywords:Aid, Developing World, International Politics
(Click on keywords to find related Research)
Three quarters (75%) of those surveyed in a 24-country study admit to knowing ‘nothing at all’ or ‘not very much’ about the development aid given by their country to poor countries, according to Ipsos Global @dvisor.

For Britain specifically, three quarters (76%) say they know not very much or nothing at all about the development aid given by the UK to poorer countries.

In a third of countries surveyed, more than eight in ten people believed they knew little or nothing about their country’s aid programme, with France the least informed, with 90% knowing ‘not very much’ or ‘nothing at all’.

Half of those surveyed globally (51%) believe that the money their country spends on financial aid to developing countries is wasted. However, this needs to put in context with scepticism about public spending generally: 54% believe their country’s defence spending is wasted and 41% believe spending on education in their country is wasted.

People also have a very inaccurate perception of which countries spend the largest proportion of their income on aid, overwhelmingly picking out the USA, then Germany, Britain and Japan. However, from the countries included in the survey, it is actually Sweden who spends the greatest percentage of national income, but they come well down the public’s list, in eighth place. The US spends proportionally much less, around a fifth of level in Sweden. The USA is however, the biggest contributor in absolute terms.


Managing Director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, Bobby Duffy, said:

“The next few months are crucial for the long-term future of international development policy and foreign aid. The Millennium Development Goals end in 2015, and the planning for what comes next is already well underway. Many involved in international development are getting worried about where we are going to end up.

Bill Gates recently highlighted how frustrated he is with what he sees as increasing opposition to foreign aid in many rich countries, driven by a “growing legion of critics”. Public opinion is therefore vital, and our new poll in 24 countries illustrates the challenges facing those making the case for aid.

Communicating on aid presents a treacherous challenge, combining legitimate concerns around waste and corruption with spectacular misconceptions of the scale of the funding involved, on a subject that most people in developed countries have little time to consider and virtually zero direct contact with.

We need to keep making the case for aid, but be realistic about how far opinion can be shifted. Politicians are going to need to maintain their courage in the face of public ambivalence.”
Technical Note:

Notes to Editors:

1. This poll was conducted using Ipsos Global @dvisor, which is a monthly online survey, conducted via the Global Ipsos Online Panel.

2. Fieldwork was conducted online in 24 countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States) between 3rd July 2012 and 17th July 2012. Between 502 and 1,042 respondents participated in each country.

3. Weighting has been applied to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflects the adult population according to the most recent country census data, and to provide results intended to approximate the intended sample universe.
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Bobby Duffy
Bobby Duffy

Managing Director, Social Research Institute

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Director, Policy and Evaluation Unit

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