We Spend How Much? Misperceptions, Innumeracy, and Support for the Foreign Aid in the United States and Great Britain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Thomas J. Scotto
  • Jason Reifler
  • David Hudson
  • Jennifer Vanheerde-Hudson

External organisations

  • School of Government and Public Policy, University of Strathclyde
  • University of Exeter
  • University College London


Majorities of citizens in high-income countries often oppose foreign aid spending. One popular explanation is that the public overestimates the percentage and amount of taxpayer funds that goes toward overseas aid. Does expressing aid flows in dollar and/or percentage terms shift public opinion toward aid? We report the results of an experiment examining differences in support for aid spending as a function of the information American and British respondents receive about foreign aid spending. In both nations, providing respondents with information about foreign aid spending as a percentage of the national budget significantly reduces support for cuts. The findings suggest that support for aid can be increased, but significant opposition to aid spending remains.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-128
JournalJournal of Experimental Political Science
Issue number2
Early online date14 Sep 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Sep 2017


  • framing development communications, aid spending, innumeracy, public opinion