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Millennium Challenge Account

Support for President Bush's proposed Millennium Challenge Account--which would result in increased aid to Africa as well as other regions--varies from about half to three quarters depending on how the question is framed, with support being higher in response to more information.

In March 2002, at an international aid conference in Monterey, Mexico, President Bush proposed the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)--a program in which the US would increase development aid by 50% over the next three years, resulting in an annual increase of $5 billion by 2006. According to Bush, the criteria for MCA grants would "reward nations that root out corruption, respect human rights, and adhere to the rule of law … invest in better health care, better schools and broader immunization ... and have more open markets and sustainable budget policies." While the program will fund projects in qualifying countries worldwide, it is also widely expected to increase overall aid to Africa.

Support for the MCA ranges from about half to three-quarters of the public, depending on how the question is asked. Poll questions that provide more information about the program get stronger approval. The most simply worded question asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of President Bush's decision to increase US foreign aid to poor countries?" In a January 2003 PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll, 48% approved and 46% disapproved. When the question was first asked by the Pew Research Center in April 2002, 53% approved and 36% disapproved. A similar question asked to a separate sample in the January 2003 PIPA-KN poll got almost the same result. When told that the president had "proposed a 50% increase in aid to help poor countries develop their economies," 47% favored and 47% opposed this proposal. [1]

Also in the January PIPA-KN poll, respondents were presented with information about the share of the federal budget that would be devoted to development aid as a result of the president's proposed increase. The question noted that the president had "proposed increasing aid to help poor countries develop their economies, so that it would be about 1% of federal spending." In this case, a strong majority-61%-supported the idea (34% opposed). Again, this is consistent with other research that shows that Americans overestimate how much goes to aid and are thus more supportive of an increase when they see it in the context of the total amount actually being spent. [2]

Finally, the January 2003 survey asked a question originally written by Peter Hart Associates:

President Bush announced a proposal for the United States to increase its support for developing countries around the world by ten billion dollars over the next three years. The money would be used for such things as improving education for students, helping businesses find new markets for their goods, developing new ways to grow more food, and fighting AIDS. This assistance would go only to poor countries that adopt sound economic policies and root out corruption in their countries. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose this proposal by President Bush?

This fuller explanation of MCA's benefits and requirements garnered overwhelming majority support--73% in favor with 25% opposed. This result is very similar to that reported by Hart in March 2002 (79% in favor, 19% opposed). [3]



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