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Americans Support Foreign Aid, but Oppose Paying for It

RESEARCH Public Opinion Survey by Lily Wojtowicz and Dina Hanania
People wait at a USAID food distribution centre in Ethiopia.

The American public’s view of the benefits of foreign aid is complicated; Americans support aid programs but would like to cut aid spending and have mixed feelings about its impact.

Key Findings 

In 2015 the United States spent $39 billion in foreign aid to other countries, including military assistance, representing 1.3 percent of the federal budget. President Trump’s budget proposal this spring cut foreign aid to other nations by over one-third. Data from the 2017 Chicago Council Survey shows that Americans view spending on domestic programs as a higher priority than foreign aid. However, majorities of the American public support specific foreign aid policies and see aid as helpful for US foreign relations. Because it’s a lower priority, majorities think aid to other countries should be cut, but they also overestimate how much of the budget is actually pegged for foreign aid. 

About the Authors
Janne E. Nolan Nuclear Security Fellow, Truman Center
Headshot photo of Lily Wojtowicz
Lily Wojtowicz is the Janne E. Nolan Fellow for Nuclear Security and a PhD student at American University. Her research interests are nuclear deterrence, alliance management, Russian public opinion, and US-Russian relations.
Headshot photo of Lily Wojtowicz
Dina Hanania
Intern, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Dina Hanania, Intern, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, Chicago Council on Global Affairs