We Spend How Much? Misperceptions, Innumeracy, and Support for the Foreign Aid in the United States and Great Britain

Scotto, T.J., Reifler, J., Hudson, D. & vanHeerde-Hudson, J. Journal of Experimental Political Science

Majorities of citizens in high-income countries often oppose foreign aid spending. One popular explanation is that the public overestimates the percentage and amount of taxpayer funds that goes toward overseas aid. Does expressing aid flows in dollar and/or percentage terms shift public opinion toward aid? We report the results of an experiment examining differences in support for aid spending as a function of the information American and British respondents receive about foreign aid spending. In both nations, providing respondents with information about foreign aid spending as a percentage of the national budget significantly reduces support for cuts. The findings suggest that support for aid can be increased, but significant opposition to aid spending remains.