Misreading the Public: The Myth of a New Isolationism

By Steven Kull; I. M. Destler | Go to book overview
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5
Foreign Aid

In the area of foreign aid the gap between policy practitioners and the public is more subtle than in the areas discussed in previous chapters. The dominant view among policy practitioners is that the public dislikes foreign aid in principle because of parochial and isolationist attitudes. Polls do reveal that the public has reservations about the U.S. foreign aid program. However, this is primarily because of the attitude (based on extreme misperceptions) that the United States spends too much on foreign aid and a negative view of the performance of U.S. aid programs. Support for foreign aid in principle, however, is quite strong, and only a very small percentage want to eliminate foreign aid. Also, when misperceptions about the amount spent on foreign aid are corrected, there is strong support for the current level of U.S. foreign aid spending.


Policy Practitioners' Perceptions of Public Attitudes

Overall, our respondents perceived Americans as quite negative about foreign aid. Though a handful said that the public is basically supportive, nine-tenths described the public as having a negative attitude. By far the dominant view, held by more than two-thirds of the sample, was that the

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