Americans Favor Major Increases in US Aid Toward Sustainable Development Goals, If Other Countries Do Their Part as Well

When a representative sample of American voters were informed about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the amount of international aid needed to meet each of five of the key goals, and the proportionate share for the US, majorities favored increasing US aid to cover its share, provided other countries cover their share as well.  The goals supported included eliminating chronic hunger, universal access to vaccines, universal access to clean water and sanitation, universal access to education for children, and universal access to energy. 

The UN is currently hosting a High-Level Political Forum to review progress toward meeting the SDGs, ending in a ministerial meeting July 14-16. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/hlpf/2020

In the innovative survey of 2,417 registered voters, by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC) at the University of Maryland, respondents were informed that all of the UN nations have established a series of developmental goals to be met by 2030 and have estimated the total amounts of increased aid that would be needed to meet them.  

Respondents were presented five of the key goals and for each one informed what the increased aid that would be required from the US to do its part, based on relative GDP, to meet the goal. They were also told how much Federal taxes would need to go up.  

For each goal, respondents were then asked “if other countries would be willing to contribute their part” whether the US should be willing “to contribute its part” toward meeting the goal. In each case, if they declined to support the full amount of the increase they were asked if they favored an increase of half the required amount toward a more limited goal. 

Majorities favored the US being ready to contribute its share for all five areas.  If the US were to contribute its share to an international effort to meet these five goals this would boost US foreign aid by $101 billion a year — quadrupling current spending — and would require federal taxes to be increased 5.3 percent.  

Steven Kull, director of PPC commented, “Americans show a substantial willingness to increase aid spending provided that it is part of a larger international effort within which other countries are doing their part as well.” 

There were partisan differences. Majorities of Democrats favored all five increases.  For Republicans, a modest majority favored the full increase for vaccines, while modest majorities favored increases of half of the required amount for eliminating chronic hunger, and universal access to clean water and sanitation.  The total increase in aid spending supported by Republican majorities would be $50 billion.  

Here are the specifics:

Eliminating Chronic Hunger
To help reach the SDG of eliminating chronic hunger, 65% supported the US contributing its part if other countries would contribute their part.  The US part was specified as $36 billion a year and respondents were told this would require a 1.7% increase in federal taxes, Supporters included 87% of Democrats and 43% of Republicans. Seven percent of the total sample recommended the US contribute at least half its part, or $18 billion a year, so that a total of 72% favored at least that much, including nine in ten Democrats and a modest majority of Republicans. 

Universal Access to Vaccines
To help achieve the SDG of universal access to vaccines, a bipartisan majority of 69% supported the US contributing its part — $11 billion a year — which would require a 0.5% increase in federal taxes. Nearly nine in ten Democrats were in support, as were a bare majority of Republicans. A majority of 77% supported the US contributing at least half of the full amount part, or $5.5 billion a year, including over nine in ten Democrats and over six in ten Republicans.

Universal Access to Clean Water and Sanitation
To help reach the SDG of ensuring universal access to clean drinking water and sanitary toilets, six in ten supported the US contributing its part which was specified as $42 billion a year and would require a 1.9% increase in federal taxes. This included eight in ten Democrats and four in ten Republicans. A bipartisan majority of seven in ten supported the US contributing at least half of the full amount, or $21 billion, including nine in ten Democrats and a slight majority of Republicans. 

Universal Access to Education for Children
To help reach the SDG of providing universal access to K-12 education, a majority of 59% supported the US contributing its parts — $28 billion a year — which would require a 1.2% increase in federal taxes. This included 84% of Democrats, and 34% of Republicans. Sixty-eight percent supported the US contributing at least half of the full amount, or $14 billion a year, including nine in ten Democrats, and 46% of Republicans.

Universal Access to Energy
To help reach the SDG of providing universal access to energy, primarily electricity, 53% supported the US contributing its parts — $13 billion a year — which would require a 0.6% increase in federal taxes. This included 76% of Democrats and just 28% of Republicans. A majority of 63% supported the US contributing at least half of the full amount, or $6.5 billion a year, including 85% of Democrats and four in ten Republicans. 

The survey was conducted October 22-30, 2019 with a sample of 2,417 registered voters and had a margin of error of +/- 2.0%. 

To determine if the Covid-19 crisis would have an impact on attitudes, March 11-25, 2020 the survey was administered to another sample of 2,069 respondents using a shortened version that did not include the pro and con arguments for increasing US aid that were in the October fielding.  All of the responses were within several percentage points of the October fielding and did not show a pattern toward higher or lower support. 

Both surveys were conducted online with a national probability-based sample provided by Nielsen Scarborough from Nielsen Scarborough’s larger sample of respondents, who were recruited by mail and telephone using a random sample of households. 

Download Full Report (PDF): http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/SDG_Report_0720.pdf

Download Questionnaire with Frequencies (PDF): http://www.publicconsultation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/SDG_Quaire_1119.pdf

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