Chris Blattman

What the average American thinks we spend on foreign aid

27% of the federal budget

vs what they think we ought to be spending (=13%)

and what we’re actually spending (=0.6%)


10 Responses

  1. Anyway you look at it, it’s an indication of how very little the American people know about how our government spends their money.

  2. what’s your source for 0.6% figure? or what are you taking into account? thought we were hovering around 0.2% ODA

    1. I would assume that’s 0.6% of the federal budget, as opposed to 0.2% of Gross National Product.

  3. @Matt and Manoel: Perhaps this is some of it, to be sure. But they can’t estimate more than 100% for (say) defense, which means that even in relative terms they think what we spend on foreign aid is more than a quarter (and probably closer to half) what we spend on defense – way off. As far as ‘should’, there are a lot of Americans who think that the federal govt (not state/local) ought to spend essentially zero on education, health, etc, so that’s not necessarily inconsistent either. Not fully disagreeing, just pointing out that it’s hard to take anything for granted here.

  4. I’m with Matt, here. I don’t think they get the relative proportions correct. If they think Us governmet should spend 15% with foreing aid, how much they would say about education, health, defense, energy etc.?

  5. I wonder if people get the relative proportions of the budget correct though? Suppose we ask them the same questions in isolation about other federal expenditures. It will likely add up to more than 100%, so if we normalize it, will they be approximately correct? I don’t think so, but it’d be interesting to see the answer.

  6. @Chris: it could definitely be that, or similarly it could be interpreted as saying that people think we ought to be spending half of what [they think] we do spend; but my suspicion is that even after taking all that into account they would prefer a number larger than 0.6%
    @stunned: the ‘real’ number does not, but of course I’m not sure how respondents interpreted the question — you can click through to find the exact wording

  7. I bet that the “what we ought to spend” figure is actually inflated due to anchoring effects.

  8. I think that if I were the president I would schedule a big prime-time speech and then I would just basically say what this blog post says.

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