Explaining Generosity: a Comparison of U.S. and European Opinion on Aid

Diven, P. & Constantelos, J. 2009. Journal of Transatlantic Studies

Whereas European public opinion generally supports foreign aid, the U.S. public is relatively critical of its proportionally smaller aid programs. This research uses cross-national, multivariate analysis of data from the World Values Survey to examine transatlantic differences in attitudes toward foreign aid programs. We find that a well-informed and financially comfortable public that associates foreign aid with their core values is more supportive of aid appropriations. Our research indicates that support for foreign aid is stronger in Europe because it coincides with European perceptions about the role of government in addressing social problems and greater European confidence in government institutions. This study provides evidence that the attitudes which provide the foundation for public support for domestic and international programs are linked. It also demonstrates that there are core value differences underpinning transatlantic gaps in public opinion.