Does Evidence Matter? The Impact of Evidence Regarding Aid Effectiveness on German Attitudes toward Aid

Jens Eger, Sebastian Schneider, Martin Bruder, Solveig Glaser.

The European Journal of Development Research, November 2022

Development aid is considered an important instrument in achieving a more sustainable global future. However, the general public perceives aid as rather ineffective. This may be because the public knows little about aid and its effects. Evidence for the effects of aid projects may therefore be of particular importance in shaping attitudes. In a survey experiment carried out among the German population (N ≈ 6000), we presented a claim on the effectiveness of an aid project or the same claim plus experimental evidence, qualitative evidence or anecdotal evidence and compared it to a no information control group. Results revealed that the claim increases both belief in the effectiveness of aid as well as support for aid. Among all forms of evidence tested, anecdotal evidence performs best, followed by experimental evidence. Pre-manipulation support for aid partly moderates the effect of the claim, but those who support aid do not react more strongly to the two forms of scientific evidence (experimental/qualitative).