The highly respected Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation November 7 released results of a new national poll on attitudes toward foreign aid, in particular on health programs in developing countries. As expected, the public is not well informed about foreign aid’s share of the federal budget (many still believing it to be more than 25 times the size it actually is), but when one gets down to specifics, they are generally very supportive (which we often find to be true in other issues also, when we get past ideological slogans).
In fact, six in ten Americans say that the US is now spending “about the right amount or not enough” on foreign assistance – only three in ten say we are “spending too much.” This is important to remember (and to tell to members of Congress who seem so fearful of supporting aid because of the noise generated by a small faction).
Important facts for you to use:
Improving access to clean water was the TOP vote getter in US foreign health programs, followed by children’s vaccination, reducing hunger, and other specific areas; 64% of respondents said clean water is “one of the top priorities”; 29% said it was “important, but not top priority”; only 6% said it was “not that important.”
In other words: 93% support US investment in clean water in developing countries. How many public policy issues you know of that get that level of support?
Other critically important US investments in health got somewhat less, but still strong, public support.
On US foreign aid in general, what got the least support? “Providing military assistance”: only 17% rate it as “one of the top priorities”, 41% rate it as “important, but not top”; and 39% said it was “not that important.” This is an important factor for policymakers to consider. (Foreign military assistance, of course, is only a part of US defense spending, not the entire Defense budget, which is mostly for US forces and systems. But the poll result here indicates a significant portion of the public believes that US aid is more productive when focused on non-military needs.)
See more on the Kaiser poll story here (and post it on your sites and tweet it, please):