Human rights violations, political conditionality and public attitudes to foreign aid: evidence from survey experiments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


There has been much criticism of donor governments who give aid to states that violate human rights. This has fuelled concerns about how such coverage affects public support for foreign aid. In response, donors increasingly use aid suspensions to signal to domestic audiences that a regime has been sanctioned and aid is not misspent. This article examines how reports of rights violations
affect attitudes to aid and what, if any, impact donor responses have on public perceptions. We conduct survey experiments using nationally representative samples of the British public. Our findings demonstrate that reports of rights abuses reduce public support for aid. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, any response from donors, whether it be to justify continuing aid or to cut aid, prevents a decline in support. In policy terms, the findings demonstrate the importance of government responsiveness in maintaining public support for a frequently contested aspect of foreign policy.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
JournalPolitical Studies
Early online date18 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jan 2021


  • foreign aid, Human Rights, development assistance, political conditionality, public attitudes, international development, human rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas