Australia’s Aid Program

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Australia’s aid budget has been significantly reduced in the last few years. The 2018 Poll repeated a question from 2011 about Australians’ perceptions of the size of the aid budget.

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Australia’s Aid Budget

Australians have very inflated perceptions of the size of Australia’s aid budget. In a question first asked in 2011, we asked Australians this year what percentage of the Australian federal budget they think is ‘actually spent on foreign aid’, and what percentage they think ‘should be spent on foreign aid’. 

In 2018, Australia’s aid budget is $3.9 billion, which is approximately 0.8% of the federal budget. However, this year’s Poll finds that on average, Australians think that 14% of the budget is actually spent on aid, while they think 10% of the budget should be spent on aid. More than one in five (21%) say that 20% or more of the budget is directed to aid. Very few Australians estimate the amount of the aid budget correctly, with only 6% saying that less than 1% of the Australian federal budget is actually spent on aid.

In 2011, Australians similarly overstated the aid budget expenditure, estimating on average that 16% of the federal budget was spent on aid, at a time when the government’s expenditure on aid was in fact $4.3 billion, or around 1.2% of the budget. 

This overestimation of the size of the aid budget may explain why Australians appear to be largely unconcerned by the successive reductions the government has made to the aid budget since 2014.

Between 2014 and 2016, Australia’s aid budget was cut from $5 billion to $4 billion, and now sits at approximately $3.9 billion per annum. When we asked Australians in May 2015 about the first major budget cut of $1 billion, a majority (53%) were in favour, with 35% against. In our March fieldwork two months earlier, before the budget cut was announced, 77% of Australians had said the aid budget of $5 billion was either ‘too much’ or ‘about the right amount’. Only 21% said it was ‘not enough’.

Even though the aid budget is now around 25% smaller than it was in 2015, 73% of Australians said in 2017 that the then aid budget of approximately $3.8 billion was either ‘about the right amount’ or ‘too much’. Just 22% said the budget is ‘not enough’.

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Australia’s Aid Budget

Now about how much of the Australian Federal budget you think is spent on foreign aid. Just based on what you know, please tell me your hunch about what percentage of the Australian Federal budget you think is actually spent on foreign aid. And in your view, what percentage of the Australian Federal budget, if any, do you personally think should be spent on foreign aid?


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