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UK public attitudes to aid and development Current

development and aid , world politics



To date, there has been limited qualitative research into UK attitudes to aid and development. Opinion surveys give valuable insights into how different parts of the population perceive aid and development. However, the picture they provide is only partial.

While they tell us ‘what’ the public think about various aspects of the fight against global poverty, there is precious little reliable understanding or theory on ‘why’ they hold the views that they do.

What evidence there is suggests that the UK public understand the causes and drivers of global poverty and injustice little differently now than they did in 1985. The view of the world that was promoted by the Live Aid concerts, with its focus on charity as donations from the powerful rich to the grateful poor, is still dominant. This is to the active detriment of a more realistic understanding of the networked, interdependent world in which we live. Neither recent campaigning by NGOs, the steady growth of the government’s international development agenda over the last 14 years, nor the explosion of global social media has shifted this understanding to any significant degree. This limited approach has succeeded in creating a political consensus on the importance of development aid in Westminster but has done little to shift wider public attitudes.

As the government seeks to make aid and development policy more transparent and accountable, and as the current economic context erodes the broad but shallow popular support for public spending on aid and development, the challenges of communicating complex issues of effectiveness, impact and risk to the public will only increase. Policymakers and development campaigners alike have a clear interest in better understanding public attitudes in this area and exploring new ways of communicating with the public. 

To this end, IPPR is working in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) to provide up to date analysis of public attitudes on aid and development, and to deepen shared awareness within the development community on the need to shift dominant public understandings of global poverty. This will be based on the analysis of new qualitative evidence gathered from a series of four half-day deliberative workshops with members of the public in different parts of the UK (London, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Evesham), and will result in a final research report later in the year.

This project is generously being funded by the five member agencies of the BOAG (Oxfam GB, Christian Aid, Action Aid, Save the Children UK, and CAFOD) and by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).