Public Perceptions of International Development in the UK

Aid budgets face immense pressure – despite overseas aid being critical for poverty alleviation in developing countries and the explicit commitments of the world’s industrialised countries to the Millennium development goals. With the world economy in a major downturn, the stakes for developing countries could not be higher. Public support for international development and aid will play a key role. But is there a domestic consensus on the UK’s role in international development and what are its contours? How permanent is it? Will the public become unsure about the UK’s aid budget when they begin to feel cuts in government expenditure at home? How well equipped are we to ‘sell’ the UK’s aid programme to a sceptical public in times of economic austerity?

There is a need for a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the UK public’s perceptions and attitudes about international development. Such a deeper understanding will help:

  • UK Government (through the Department for International Development) in a realistic framing of its policies towards increasing aid
  • UK development campaigns to be more accountable to the UK public and hence more sustainable
  • UK media to better understand its readership on these issues stakeholders in countries where DFID works to hold DFID better to account.

This is what this collaboration between IDS and the Mass Observation Archive aims to achieve. Via the Mass Observation Archive, IDS has solicited the views of members of the general public about international development and aid. Within the context of the current economic crisis this research explores issues around people’s perceptions of the causes of poverty, the responsibilities of developed countries toward developing countries, government overseas aid, development charities and their activities.

Project details

start date
1 October 2008
end date
31 October 2009


In partnership with
Mass Observation Archive
Supported by
Wellcome Trust

About this project


Recent work