Two in five undecided voters in key seats believe aid cuts damage UK's international standing

Research by the British Foreign Policy Group looks at the electoral importance of development cuts

(Photo credit: Pexels - Element5 Digital)
(Photo credit: Pexels - Element5 Digital)

Nearly two-fifths of swing voters in English marginal seats believe cuts to international development funding will have a negative impact on the UK’s global reputation, according to new research.

A report by The British Foreign Policy Group analyses public attitudes towards aid spending, and examines its electoral significance in marginal seats across the UK.

The research canvassed public opinion from a total of 1,500 respondents in 30 seats in England that are closely contested between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats.

The sample was then weighted to be socially and politically representative within those seats.

International aid spending was rated as the least important foreign policy issue for respondents when determining how they will vote, with climate change, defence and security, and international trade all being seen as higher priorities.

Despite this, 38 per cent of respondents said they believe the decision to reduce aid spending from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of gross national income would have a negative impact on the UK’s global reputation.

In addition, 45 per cent of respondents believe Britain has a moral obligation to help the world’s poorest people, even when its own economy is going through a difficult time, while a quarter disagreed and 31 per cent were neutral.

One-quarter of constituents in the marginal seats surveyed identify with feeling pride in the UK’s commitment to international aid, while 16 per cent said they feel “pleased” by it.

A further 10 per cent said they are frustrated, nine per cent are ambivalent, seven per cent say it makes them feel safe, five per cent are angry, five per cent feel anxious and 21 per cent have no opinion.

“Although the British public largely supports the decision to temporarily reduce international development spending, it is also the case that they recognise the moral and strategic value of the UK’s aid investments,” the report says. 

It goes on to say: “Although the overall salience of aid and development as a policy area remains lower than other areas of the UK’s international activities, the commitment to maintaining an ongoing programme of development investments is robust and enduring.

“Britons remain morally bound to the universal application of human rights and ensuring all people live with basic standards of human health, sanitation and wellbeing. 

“They recognise common values shared across the human experience.”

The government is facing a revolt in Parliament next week over its decision to cut aid spending after dozens of rebel Conservative MPs tabled an amendment that could reverse that decision. 

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