October 4, 2018 | By Craig Kafura

Public Support for Foreign Aid Programs

Reflecting the President’s hostility to foreign assistance, the Trump administration has repeatedly sought to curtail US foreign aid spending. Most recently, the administration attempted in August to cancel $3 billion in foreign aid through a process of ‘rescission’—but backed off in the face of pushback from Congress.

Past surveys, including prior Chicago Council Surveys, have found that Americans want to cut US spending on foreign assistance, including both military and economic aid. Yet at the same time, Americans also dramatically overestimate how much the US spends on those programs. When asked to construct their own US budget in the 2018 Chicago Council Survey, Americans allocate far more than the US actually spends, giving 4.9% of the budget to military aid to other nations, 4.3% to economic aid to other nations, and 4.7% to diplomatic programs abroad.

While Americans are generally in agreement on these levels of foreign assistance, there are notable differences in other areas of the budget. Defense spending in particular stands out as an area of partisan disagreement, with Republicans allocating 22 percent of the budget compared to Democrats’ 10 percent and Independents’ 13 percent. Conversely, Democrats allocate more funds to healthcare, environmental protection, and education.

Americans also broadly support a variety of US government programs and efforts abroad. Eight in ten Americans (79%) favor helping a government that is having free elections for the first time by giving it aid and technical assistance. Seven in ten favor sending monitors to certify that elections are conducted fairly and honestly (71%), and bringing students, journalists and political leaders to the US to educate them on how democracy works (70%).

A majority of Americans also support more coercive efforts, such as withholding developmental aid from a government that is not democratic or is not moving toward becoming more democratic (57%) and pressuring a non-democratic government with some economic sanctions such as reduced trade with the US (54%).

However, the US public is more hesitant to involve itself in the internal political conflicts of other nations. Only four in ten Americans (42%) favor the US supporting dissidents in a non-democratic country.

Methodology

This analysis is based on data from the 2018 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy. The 2018 Chicago Council Survey was conducted by GfK Custom Research using their large-scale, nationwide online research panel between July 12 and July 31, 2018 among a representative national sample of 2,046 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is ±2.37, including a design effect of 1.1954. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items.

The 2018 Chicago Council Survey is a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy, and is made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Korea Foundation, the US-Japan Foundation, the generous support of the Crown family, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

Archive

| By James Drimalla

Bleak Outlook on US-Russia Relations

A new joint report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Levada Analytical Center finds experts have little hope for US-Russia relations in the near future.


| By James Drimalla

Millennials' Divergent Views on Global Affairs

Attitudes and beliefs frequently change from generation to generation and a new joint study from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, CATO Institute, and Charles Koch Institute explores generational differences between the American public on foreign policy issues.



| By Karl Friedhoff

Consequences of Success on the Korean Peninsula

The April 27 inter-Korean summit was largely successful in the eyes of the South Korean public. It has created momentary trust in North Korea, and if that lasts, may lead the public to ask serious questions about the US-South Korea alliance.


| By Karl Friedhoff

The Reunification Spectrum for South Koreans

When it comes to reunification, South Koreans take pause. A quick reunification likely has serious cosequences for the South, and is not much favored by the South Korean public. Instead, the status quo is generally favored, and those views are often conditioned by the actions of North Korea.


| By Karl Friedhoff

Diplomacy in the Air on Korean Peninsula

In the coming months, there will be a flurry of diplomatic activity on the Korean Peninsula. This is good news for many South Koreans, even though the South Korea public still has doubts about North Korea's true intentions.


| By Dzena Berbic, Craig Kafura

America and the Millennial Agenda

Millennials have become the most populous living generation in the United States, overtaking Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in becoming the largest voting body. So what do Millennials want, and what are some of their noticeable generational differences? A recent Chicago Council on Global Affairs event featuring Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL2), former Congressman Bob Dold (R-IL10), POLITICO’s Natasha Korecki, and Council pollster Craig Kafura, discussed Millennial attitudes and the Millennial political agenda.



| By Craig Kafura

O Christmas Tree

Christmas is a widely-celebrated holiday in the United States. Though the Christmas tree remains a popular symbol, Americans are changing the kind of tree they use in their homes—and a small but rising number are opting to celebrate without a tree altogether. 




| By Dina Smeltz

Arrested Development

In President Trump's first major speech before the United Nations General Assembly last week, he described the nuclear agreement with Iran as an "embarrassment" to the United States. But according to the 2017 Chicago Council Survey, the public disagrees. 


Americans Not Sure Trump's Policies Will Make America Safer

The 2017 Chicago Council Survey finds that majorities of Americans continue to think that international terrorism is one of the most critical threats to the United States. But the overall public is not convinced that the Trump administration's policies will make the United States safer from terrorism.