Declining support: influencing public attitudes and behaviour towards global poverty

15 November 2016
Author: Alice Delemare

The number of people in the UK who take action on the issue of global poverty is in decline. These actions range from donating and fundraising, to contacting MPs and sharing information, to buying goods and voting on the issue. 

Research from the Aid Attitude Tracker (AAT) tracks public engagement with 18 different types of action towards global poverty. Each of these actions has seen a steady decline in participation since the tracker started in 2013.

This is cause for concern for international development organisations. To sustain the UK’s leadership role on global poverty, we need to be aware of these trends and develop a new approach to building public and political support. 

Apart from highlighting the recent trends, the AAT provides valuable insights that organisations can use to effectively target resources and make strategic decisions that could rebuild the British public’s support for aid and development.

Top insights from the AAT

  • There are segments of the British public who are not yet taking action, but have supportive or moderate attitudes towards aid and development. This is approximately 16 million people in the UK. 
  • Every major Parliamentary party has a constituency of people who identify with that party and who are:
    a) ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about global poverty and;

    b) taking some type of action on global poverty.

    Over a quarter of people who identify with the Conservative party are taking action on issues of global poverty, and a third of people who identify with the Conservative party are ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about global poverty. 
  • The British public perceives frontline workers (e.g. doctors, nurses, teachers, international staff and local partners) as the warmest and most competent spokespeople used by international development organisations.

What we can do

  1. We can change people’s underlying perceptions to increase engagement with global poverty. To change perceptions organisations should:

    •    Talk about reducing poverty as a moral cause – use language of fairness, justice and responsibility

    •    Show how other people “like them” are participating in activities

    •    Show how individuals can make a difference by using realistic and relatable examples
  2. Organisations should not ignore public concerns about corruption or minimise its existence. We can address concerns by talking about progress despite corruption and by highlighting how development organisations go to great lengths to minimise corruption in their work.
  3. We need to build and use a more diverse group of messengers who are trusted by the public, such as frontline workers.

Senior leaders, campaigners and communicators in the development sector can use these insights to build strategy, develop communications, and target specific audiences to boost support for aid and development among the British public.

For more information about how the Aid Attitude Tracker can help make the case for aid and development read the latest Bond guide.

For further details on the AAT research visit MyBond Public Support Hub [members only]

About the author

Alice Delemere

Alice is campaigns manager at Bond where she leads a programme on building public support for development. She runs training on how to implement narrative approaches in communications and helps organisations build their knowledge of public attitudes.