The president has noted this recently. In a discussion on jobs and the economy in Charlotte, North Carolina, last week, President Obama said that “A lot of people think if you just eliminated foreign aid we could balance the budget.” In fact, “Foreign aid accounts for about 1.5 to 2 percent of the budget,” Obama observed. (The Administration’s $58.5 billion FY11 International Affairs Budget request represents only 1.4% of the entire federal budget.)
The online poll comes on the heels of other research showing that foreign aid is consistently among the most commonly given responses when people are asked to identify a program from which to cut spending. Americans routinely overestimate the amount of foreign assistance the United States provides to the rest of the world, with a 2001poll showing that half of all Americans thought foreign aid comprised at least 20 percent of the budget– and the average responder believing it was a whopping 25 percent.
If Americans had a more precise understanding of funding for our development and diplomacy programs, along with an understanding of the economic and national security benefits they bring, public approval of cuts to these meager but vital programs could well disappear.