Study provides first global evidence that foreign aid boosts public opinion

February 11, 2014

A study by Dartmouth and Australian researchers provides the first empirical evidence using data from a variety of countries that foreign aid can greatly improve foreign public opinion of donor countries.

The findings are based on a U.S. foreign aid program targeting HIV and AIDS—the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—that has substantially improved public perception of the United States in the more than 80 developing countries receiving the aid. But the findings have broader policy implications for an emerging international order in which major powers increasingly use foreign aid rather than militarized conflicts to sway global public opinion and pursue a range of objectives in foreign relations.

The study will appear in Quarterly Journal of Political Science. A PDF of the study is available on request. The study included researchers from Dartmouth College, the University of Sydney and the Australian National University.

"By doing good, a country can do well," says co-author Yusaku Horiuchi, an associate professor and the Mitsui Chair in the Study of Japan in the Department of Government at Dartmouth. "Our findings suggest that policy debates about foreign aid programs should consider not only their efficacy in achieving direct goals, but also their value in improving the donor country's global or regional standing."

Foreign aid is often claimed to be an effective tool that states use to win hearts and minds abroad, but those claims are largely based on anecdotal evidence from disaster and conflict zones. In addition, there are several reasons why foreign aid could be ineffective in influencing public opinion—recipients may be unaware of the origins of the aid; the donor's motivations might be seen as self-serving; the positive feelings associated with aid may be too small to shift perceptions; aid programs may fail to work; or aid may be seen as helping to prop up dysfunctional or repressive regimes.

The few empirical studies conducted have had methodological limitations and produced mixed results, with some showing at least a temporary boost in , while others show no widespread, long-lasting effect. But the Dartmouth-Australian study takes a new approach to the issue, applying for the first time a comparative, cross-national perspective using data from a variety of countries. The results suggest that in addition to its humanitarian benefits, foreign aid that meets certain criteria—targeted at important needs, sustained over time, perceived as being effective, and highly visible—can serve an important strategic goal for those countries that give it.

Explore further: Negative view of foreign aid for health is based on flawed analysis: experts

Related Stories

Study debunks idea that foreign health aid rife with waste

May 21, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- When a 2010 study concluded that about half the money given to international governments for providing health-care services isn’t used as intended, skeptics who argued that foreign aid is largely ...

Getting aid to where it is needed

July 4, 2011

In the early 2000s, the international aid community started to fund health programs through Global Health Initiatives (GHIs) which provide aid and support for tackling infectious diseases, and for implementing immunization ...

HIV rates in Haiti drop over decade

December 1, 2013

The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince says the number of Haitians who have tested positive for HIV has declined over the past decade.

Recommended for you

80-million-year-old dinosaur collagen confirmed

January 23, 2017

Utilizing the most rigorous testing methods to date, researchers from North Carolina State University have isolated additional collagen peptides from an 80-million-year-old Brachylophosaurus. The work lends further support ...

Archaeologists uncover new clues to Maya collapse

January 23, 2017

Using the largest set of radiocarbon dates ever obtained from a single Maya site, archaeologists have developed a high-precision chronology that sheds new light on patterns leading up to the two major collapses of the ancient ...

New ancient otter species among largest ever found

January 23, 2017

Dr. Denise Su, curator and head of paleobotany and paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was co-author on new research that described a species of otter new to science and that is among the largest otter ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VENDItardE
1 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2014
more lying liberal BS...the US is the most generous nation in history and most reviled throughout vast areas of the world

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.