Public Opinion and Foreign Aid Cuts in Economic Crises

Heinrich, T., Kobayashi, Y. & Bryant, K.A.; World Development

Economic crises generally lead to reductions in foreign aid. However, the widely held view that budgetary constraints caused by economic crises reduce aid is inaccurate because donor government outlays actually tend to increase. We develop an argument that aid cuts occur because voters place a lower priority on aid during economic downturns and politicians respond by cutting aid. Using data from Eurobarometer, we demonstrate that economic downturns lead to reduced public support for helping the poor abroad. These findings are robust across a large number of alternative specifications. Our findings have implications for how advocates may prevent aid reductions during economic recessions.