To measure the attitudes of the European public towards development aid, EuropeAid commissions Eurobarometer public opinion surveys from time to time. The latest report, published in November 2013, covers 28 EU member states (the ‘old-new’ member states and Croatia) and focuses on four main areas: general awareness of extreme poverty; the perceived importance of development aid and of EU aid in the context of the economic crisis; the commitment of EU citizens to tackling poverty; their awareness of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, and their views on future priorities.
Results show that there are meaningful differences between the Western (Northern) and Eastern (Southern) parts of the EU in terms of evaluating the role EU citizens and EU aid can play in terms of poverty reduction.
While, in general, 83% of respondents think that it is (very) important to help people in developing countries, county-specific data show that eastern EU-countries are less convinced about the necessity of help (Hungary: 66%, Estonia: 68%, Slovenia: 71%) than people living in Western states (Sweden: 95%, Germany: 89%, Luxemburg 87%).
Beside the abstract question formulated on the necessity help, practical capacities were evaluated in a similar way. While 90% of Swedish respondents think they can play an active role in tackling poverty (Ireland: 65%, Luxembourg: 65%, Spain: 65%), people in the Eastern part of the EU have much less (self-)confidence. In Bulgaria only 10% of people think they can play a role in tackling poverty in developing countries (Estonia: 17%, Hungary: 28%).
With reference to the interaction between the donor and the donated, 87% of respondents in Sweden think that tackling poverty in developing countries has a positive influence on EU citizens (Finland: 83%, Denmark: 82%); the ‘causality’ is much less visible for those living in Central and Eastern Europe (26%: Bulgaria, Czech Republic: 39%, Slovakia: 39%).
The most telling data is related to knowledge. Almost 90 percent of the respondents estimated wrongly the magnitude of the problem (to be tackled by development and/or humanitarian aid), ie. the number of people living in extreme poverty. Two-thirds, ie. 66% of Europeans believe that more than 1 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty (the statistically correct number is between 500 million – 1 billion) and 18% admitted ‘do not know’. The magnitude of poverty was overestimated regardless to the respondents’ nationality, age, profession or educational background (p. 8-9).
COM (2013): EU Development Aid and the Millennium Developing Goals. Special Eurobarometer 405. Publication date: November 2013