UK public say development aid is morally right, but should be cut to deal with the budget deficit
Despite severe austerity measures and cuts to public services, more than 6 out of 10 people still think that it is morally right for the UK to help developing countries. New survey results published today by the Institute of Development Studies reveal that 62 per cent of people think it is our obligation as human beings to help the world's poor people.
Nonetheless, the majority of respondents (64 per cent) think that poverty at home is the priority. Despite the fact that government aid only accounted for £80 per person in 2009 (compared with £1,801 per person on pensions, and £1,808 per person on health care) 63 per cent think aid needs to be cut to help deal with the budget deficit. Over half (57 per cent) of respondents did not support the coalition government's policy of ring-fencing aid spending.
About the research
The results are published today in Aid to Developing Countries: Where does the UK Public Stand?, the first report of the UK Public Opinion Monitor (UKPOM). The report's recommendations include that the development sector should take a new approach to communicating with the public about how and when aid works, thus addressing the view expressed by over half of all respondents that most aid is wasted.
The UKPOM, managed by IDS, is a representative panel of people from across the UK. The report presents a summary of results from surveys undertaken over the period June to August 2010. This is the first time that a long-term panel of the general public will be used to explore attitudes towards development over time in the UK.
Other key findings
The report also uncovers the drivers behind people's attitudes on aid spending, including:
- Aid wastage - 52 per cent of respondents thought that most UK aid to developing countries is wasted. Holding this view increased the likelihood of supporting cuts in aid spending by 15 per cent.
- Age - Older people are 21 per cent more likely to propose reducing the aid budget than younger people. This was one of the most important factors.
- Political standpoint - Conservative voters are 12 per cent more likely to support cutting the aid budget than Labour voters. Liberal Democrat voters are no more likely to support cuts than Labour voters.
Launching the report, IDS Director Lawrence Haddad said:
"It is encouraging that, even in times of austerity, the majority of people say we have a moral obligation to help the poor in the world. The concerning finding from our survey is that many respondents believe aid is wasted. Yet IDS research has consistently demonstrated that aid really does make an enormous difference to poor people.
This survey suggests development charities and the Government need to take a fresh approach to engaging with the public about aid. We need to hear more from the people whose lives have been changed by aid. We should do more to understand what UK taxpayers' need to hear to be convinced that aid works. And we need to be honest about what works and what doesn't, so we can learn for the future."
Research using the UKPOM is ongoing, with future topics to include whether aid should be linked to UK security and trade and the international response to the floods in Pakistan.
Download the full report: Aid to Developing Countries: Where does the UK Public Stand?