Does Corruption Cause Aid Fatigue? Public Opinion and the Aid-Corruption Paradox

Bauhr, M., Charron, N., Nasiritousi, N. International Studies Quarterly

Does perceived corruption in recipient countries reduce support for foreign aid in donor countries? This under-explored yet salient question is examined using the 2009 Eurobarometer survey for the 27 EU countries. We suggest that perceived corruption can cause aid fatigue but that this relationship is highly contextualized. The results show that perceptions about corruption in developing countries reduce overall support for aid among respondents in donor countries. However, this effect is mitigated by country and contextual-level effects and different understandings of what we call the “aid-corruption paradox,” namely that the need for foreign aid is often the greatest in corrupt environments. Three different dynamics of the aid-corruption paradox influence support for aid: moral, pragmatic, and strategic understandings. In EU-15 countries, the effect of perceived corruption in recipient states on aid fatigue can be substantially altered if aid is motivated by moral reasons for helping poor countries or if the purpose of aid is understood to improve governance. In new member states (NMS-12), the effect is reduced if respondents believe that the result of aid can serve national interests. The results provide new insights into the public opinion/development policy nexus, which suggest a number of salient policy recommendations and future areas for research.