What do Canadians think about foreign aid?
They think it’s a good idea, but they don’t think Canada should spend more on it.
That is one of the findings from surveys done this year about Canadian attitudes towards foreign aid.
The three surveys were conducted this by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, an umbrellas group for Canadian NGOs; the One Campaign, and CanWach (Canadian Partnership for Women’s and Children’s Health).
Of the three, only the CanWach survey is online.
When asked to rank a series of issues facing Canadians, and then asked which ones Canada should spend more on, aid was ranked at the bottom.
In the top four were healthcare, terrorism, unemployment in Canada and poverty in Canada.
Global hunger was near the bottom at #10 and poverty in the developing world was #13.
As one researcher put it: “No good news here with regard to development aid.”
For marketers and communicators, an important finding was that 64% of Canadians could not name a single relief and development organization.
We simply can't assume that most people know who we are, or that we exist, in other words.
Here are some other findings from the three surveys.
A majority of Canadians think foreign aid is a good idea, but support for it is soft. When asked, few agree Canada should spend more.
Most Canadians have no idea how much Canada spends on foreign aid.
One survey noted that the term “foreign aid” is not positive for most Canadians. It led one researcher to suggest that NGOs not use that term when making a case to the public for more spending on relief and development.
How many Canadians are supportive of foreign aid? According to one of the surveys, 23% of Canadians are active supporters, 20% are passive, 20% are swing, 15% are disengaged, 14% are passive opponents, and 9% are actively opposed.
What about those who oppose it—who are they? They tend to be conservative politically, high school educated, blue collar, male, older and rural. Unless they are religious, in which case they are supportive of helping others through aid. (This is something religious NGOs know, but it came as a surprise to one researcher.)
When those who support aid were asked why, the most common response in the surveys was a sense of moral duty and compassion.
When asked who they trust in the NGO sector, respondents indicated they trust the reports of individual relief and development workers above institutions.
When it comes to engagement in this issue, or most other issues and causes, participation is decreasing in the areas of volunteering, donating or participating in fundraisers. Where engagement is rising it is through social media.
When it comes to getting news, 61% of Canadians rely on Facebook. 19% list Twitter, 18% use YouTube.