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New Survey, Analysis Suggest a Growing Partisan Split About U.S. Government Engagement on Global Health

While U.S. global health programs have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past, a new survey of the public and findings from interviews with global health and foreign policy experts suggest a growing partisan divide, as the country gears up for the 2016 election.

Half (53%) of Americans say the U.S. is already doing enough to improve health in developing countries, and 46 percent think the U.S. is doing more than its fair share compared to other wealthy countries.

Republicans are far more likely than Democrats (62% vs. 34%) to say the U.S. contributes more than its fair share, a perception gap that has grown from 17 percentage points in 2012 to 28 percentage points currently. In addition, most Republicans (68%) and independents (59%) think the U.S. government is doing enough to improve global health, while just more than half of Democrats (52%) think the U.S. is not doing enough.

Seven in 10 Americans (69%) express skepticism about the “bang for the buck” in U.S. global health spending, saying it is only fair or poor. Still, most (60%) say the U.S. is spending too little (26%) or about the right amount (34%) on global health.

Additionally, a majority of Americans (63%) continue to say that spending on global health protects the health of Americans by preventing the spread of diseases; 53 percent say it helps make people and communities in developing countries more self-sufficient; and just more than half (52%) believe it improves the U.S. image around the world.

A separate report summarizes the views of global health and foreign policy leaders on the U.S. role in global health, based on interviews carried out by Hart Research Associates and Public Opinion Strategies. It also finds some evidence of partisan differences in how they believe U.S. global health funding should be allocated. Left-leaning experts more often favor an approach that integrates initiatives like nutrition, clean water, and maternal and child health, while right-leaning experts are more likely to prioritize greater cooperation between governments and private sector groups.

The Foundation also released an analysis of global health spending that finds funding for most global health programs remained essentially flat in the FY 2016 omnibus spending bill signed into law in December. After Congress provided an unprecedented level of emergency funding for Ebola in FY15 in response to the West African outbreak, other appropriations for global health programs continued at essentially FY15 levels in FY16.

The findings and analyses were discussed at a public briefing at the Foundation, featuring a panel discussion with experts on global health policy. An archived webcast of the briefing will be available later online.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.