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2012 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health

Section 6: Conclusion

Since the Kaiser Family Foundation began tracking public opinion on the U.S. role in global health in 2009, we have consistently found solid levels of support among the public for current levels of U.S. global health spending, along with the caveat that the current economic situation makes most Americans wary of increasing such spending. This survey illuminates several opportunities and challenges for those looking to increase the public’s level of support for U.S. global health efforts. While misperceptions about the size of U.S. foreign aid continue to be a challenge, an opportunity can be found in the fact that accurate information has the potential to “move the needle” in this area. By simply telling people that foreign aid makes up only one percent of the budget, opinion shifts from a majority saying the U.S. currently spends too much on foreign aid to two-thirds saying we spend either too little or about the right amount.

Another opportunity lies in the degree to which there is bipartisan agreement among the public about current levels of U.S. spending on health in developing countries. In contrast to many domestic policy issues which tend to be more divisive, those looking to rally support for U.S. global health efforts may find potential supporters among Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike. And those looking toward the future may be encouraged by the fact that young adults are among those most likely to support increased U.S. involvement. Our analysis also finds that those who pay a lot of attention to global health issues and those who believe more spending will lead to meaningful progress are more likely to support an increase in U.S. funding for global health, suggesting that increasing the visibility of these issues and convincing people of the effectiveness of spending could be potentially successful strategies in gaining broader public support.

On the challenge side, perhaps the biggest challenge lies in the public’s skepticism about the amount of U.S. money that actually reaches people on the ground in developing countries versus being lost through corruption. It may be hard to convince the public to support an increase U.S. funding for global health as long as they continue to perceive that less than a quarter of every U.S. tax dollar spent on health in developing countries actually reaches those in need. And finally, declining attention to and visibility of global health issues presents an ongoing challenge for those looking to raise awareness of these issues, and one that is likely to continue throughout 2012 as the media focuses on the state of the U.S. economy and, increasingly, on the presidential election campaign.

Section 5: Visibility and Attention to Global Health 2012 Global Health Survey: Methodology