What’s more effective in raising support for aid, kindness or the national interest?
Does emphasising the benefits aid brings to Australia make Australians more positively disposed to giving it? Some politicians clearly think it does. On the other hand, groups like the Campaign for Australian Aid take a different approach. They advocate for aid on ethical grounds alone, ignoring what’s in it for us.
Both types of appeal are plausible. No one’s ever studied what actually works though. Earlier survey work has shown most Australians want government aid focused on helping people overseas. This is suggestive. But people’s preferences about how existing aid should be spent aren’t the same thing as the type of information that might actually change whether they support more aid or not.
Late last year we conducted a survey experiment to shed light on what types of appeal, if any, increase support for government aid. All of our findings are described in full in our new Devpolicy discussion paper.
The experiment involved a sample of over 4,000 Australians. Each participant was randomly allocated either to a control group who were only asked a set of questions about their views on Australian aid, or to one of several treatment groups.
Each of the treatment groups was provided with a short newspaper-like article about an Australian aid initiative – an initiative modelled on the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security. (We didn’t use the Centre’s name, so as to avoid any connotations associated with the word ‘security’.)
One treatment group – which we called the ‘basic treatment group’ – were just provided with some very simple information on the aid initiative, and a broad endorsement from an academic. Another group – the ‘national interest group’ – was provided similar information and a similar endorsement but written in a way that emphasised …read more