Only 1 in 5 people feel informed about the aid given by the UK Government to developing countries


Latest results from IDS’ UK Public Opinion Monitor (UKPOM) suggest that low levels of public awareness of how aid is spent is damaging public support for UK Government aid spending. Survey results reveal only 21% of people consider themselves informed about UK aid, yet the Government has committed to increasing aid spending to 0.7% of GNI from 2013 onwards.

Published today, the research also finds that overseas aid is the most popular good cause for UK public charity donations, with respondents indicating that they give more regular donations to overseas aid and disaster relief charities than to any other good cause.

The importance of awareness

Awareness of aid and poverty issues clearly has a big impact on the public’s views about aid. For example, when asked about the UK Government decision earlier this year to continue to provide £280 million per year in aid to India, 58% of people thought the UK should give no aid to India at all. Reasons given for this include people’s perceptions of India’s space programme and the number of rich people in its population.

However, just 4 out of 10 people knew that India had more poor people than any other country in the world, and more than the whole of Sub Saharan Africa combined. Once informed of this, 30% of the previously unaware respondents changed their view and decided to support the £280 million India aid commitment.

Professor Lawrence Haddad, IDS Director said:

‘It’s heartening to see that the public hasn’t lost its appetite for giving, with a positive response to recent humanitarian disasters, and with overseas aid standing out as the most popular charitable cause to donate to.

‘But this research makes clear that improving public awareness and understanding of aid would really help encourage public support. At a time when the Government is committed to protecting the UK’s aid spend, it’s more important than ever that we communicate the experiences faced by poor people around the world, and the success stories of aid having a positive impact on people’s lives.’

Other key findings

The research also examines the public’s views about three humanitarian crises: the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2010 Pakistan floods and the current Horn of Africa famine. The analysis appears to show that complex humanitarian crises that unfold over longer time periods (e.g. famines) provoke less public support than sudden crises (e.g. earthquakes). Respondents expressed more extreme concern about the Haiti earthquake in its immediate aftermath than they expressed over the Pakistan flood at the time of the disaster or recently over the current Horn of Africa famine.

People also claimed they had given the most in charitable donations to Haiti, in comparison to Pakistan and the Horn of Africa. This is supported by data from the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) that show that the Haiti earthquake was the second most popular appeal in the DEC’s history, with the Horn of Africa ranking third and Pakistan floods fourth.