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The Impact of Public Opinion on the provision of Official Development Assistance

Niall Morris
University College Dublin
Niall Morris
University College Dublin
Open Panel

Abstract

Despite an aggregate increase in levels of Official Development Assistance (ODA) over the past decade, there remains today a significant disparity between the levels of aid donated by donor countries. While five of the members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) currently donate over 0.7% of their national income, the majority have failed to reach this target, with the bottom five members all donating less than 0.2% of GNI. This paper seeks to explain this disparity by examining the relationship between domestic public opinion within the donor country and the quantity of aid donated. Unlike previous studies, which have argued that aid policy is driven by public opinion on issues such as: redistribution (both internationally and domestically); nationalism and immigration, this paper finds that the most satisfactory explanation can be found in the vastly differing attitudes within donor countries regarding the appropriate role of the state in society. Drawing on four rounds of surveys conducted by the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), this paper quantitatively analyses the relationship between public attitudes towards the role of the state in society and the levels of aid donated. The findings of this analysis indicate that disparities in donor behaviour are not caused by differing opinions regarding the developed world’s obligations to the developing world, but are instead driven by differing opinions on the appropriate role of the state in meeting these obligations.