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





On his Europe trip, Trump will be crossing into hostile territory

Donald Trump kicked off his second official foreign tour today in Warsaw, Poland, giving a speech condemning Russian aggression amid a crowd enthusiastic about its government’s show of friendship with the US leader. For Trump, this first stop will likely be the easy part.


#TBT 1974: #NOTNixonian

Is the US public turning on President Donald Trump like it turned on former President Richard Nixon? Running Numbers is digging out its archived polls to look back at Nixon’s approval ratings compared to those of Trump to see whether US public opinion is following a similar path.



Heading into Brexit talks, Britain is as divided as ever

On the heels of the shocking General Election outcome, the UK-EU Brexit negotiations have begun. But the road ahead for these talks is far from smooth: recent polling indicates that the public is increasingly split on what exactly would qualify as an acceptable deal.



| By Craig Kafura

UK General Election 2017: Parliament and Polls Hung Out to Dry

As the results of the United Kingdom’s snap election filtered in last Friday, most headlines echoed shock: Theresa May and her Conservative Party had lost the large majority in Parliament that seemed almost guaranteed just a few weeks ago. What drove this shocking shift? Did anyone see it coming?


Trump’s Paris Pullout: Not Popular with US Public

President Trump recently announced that he plans on pulling the United States out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, a decision that is out of step with the views of the public. According to a number of surveys conducted over the past year, a majority of Americans support US participation in the agreement.


| By Dina Smeltz

The Urban-Rural Divide?

Are Americans as divided along geographic lines when it comes to key foreign policy matters as their voting patterns suggest? 


| By Karl Friedhoff

Moon Jae-In's Victory Does Not Put US-Korea Alliance at Risk

With the election of Moon Jae-In to the presidency of South Korea, there are concerns that the US-Korea alliance hangs in the balance. Those fears are overblown. While there are rough waters ahead, much of that will emanate from the Trump administration's handling of cost-sharing negotiations in the near future.


| By Dina Smeltz

The Foreign Policy Blob Is Bigger Than You Think

The Blob isn't just science fiction. When it comes to US foreign policy, its reach is far and wide with wide swaths of agreement between foreign policy elite and the general public. A new report from the Council and the Texas National Security Network explains.


| By Dina Smeltz

American Views of Israel Reveal Partisan and Generational Divides

Despite partisan differences on taking a side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on the status of US-Israel bilateral relations, overall trends from Chicago Council Survey data indicate that the relationship between the United States and Israel will continue to be viewed warmly by the American public.