The Monitor, co-managed by IDS, finds that despite severe austerity measures and cuts to public services, 62 percent of respondents still think that it is morally right for the UK to help developing countries. But the majority of respondents (64 per cent) think that poverty at home is the priority at the moment. Over half (57 per cent) of respondents did not support the coalition government’s policy of ring-fencing aid spending.
The report also uncovers the drivers behind people’s attitudes on aid spending, including:
- Aid wastage – 51 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.
I suspect that the way the public is engaged around aid needs to be rethought in terms of why and how aid matters and why and when we need global cooperation to deal with things like climate change and trade.
For example, there should be more experimentation (and evaluation) of:
- whether authentic impact stories--good and bad--from those directly affected by aid makes a difference to attitudes about wastage
- how different media framings make a difference to perceptions
- whether UK taxpayers perceptions about aid change when they have some choice of how the money is spent
The kinds of experiments popularised by Thaler, Sunstein and Gladwell need to be taken into the worlds of aid and international development.