Aid Attitudes Tracker/Development Engagement Lab

Policymakers and international development NGOs fear that citizens are becoming increasingly cynical about supporting efforts to address poverty overseas. Our researchers are exploring why this is the case and helping NGOs and governments improve public engagement with global poverty by tracking attitudes towards development aid.

About the project

The Development Engagement Lab (DEL) continues the work of the Aid Attitudes Tracker (AAT) examining public attitudes and behaviours towards development, global poverty and overseas aid in four major donor countries: France, Germany, Great Britain and the United States. Developed by a team of researchers from the University of Birmingham, UCL and University of Texas at Dallas and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project measures public opinion on aid and development over a period of 10 years (2013-18 and 2018-2023).

During this time, the team has been surveying 6-8,000 people across the four countries, via YouGov, every six months and found that support for aid in the UK has remained relatively stable despite the long shadow of austerity and criticism, from some parts. In France, support has risen sharply. Germany has maintained a high level of support throughout, and in the US, support has grown slightly. 

The project has also helped to identify five sub-groups of the public with respect to how they engage with international development and global poverty:

Totally Disengaged (39% of UK public in July 2018).
These people tend to not engage with the issues of global development at all – it’s just not on their radar and they’re often antagonistic towards spending on overseas aid.

Marginally Engaged (36%).
The Marginally Engaged occasionally donate money to development charities or read the news related to global poverty, but are often too busy or distracted to commit to the issue and tend to be ‘on the fence’.

Informationally Engaged (12%).
They tend to be younger and spend more time online, sharing stories via social media or signing petitions or writing to their MP or political representative.

Behaviourally Engaged (7%).
These people do a range of traditional actions, from donating, volunteering for development NGOs, attending rallies and marches in support of the issue.

Fully Engaged (5%).
These are the true believers and engage in the whole range of behaviours that the Behaviourally and the Informationally Engaged do.


Evidence from the Aid Attitudes Tracker has helped to shaped policy debate, leading to the 25 largest UK-based development NGOs changing their communications strategy to build support for UK aid among the ‘Marginally Engaged’ group of the public, which have been previously ignored, considered too difficult to reach. Policy debate has also been informed by AAT evidence, which has led to development organisations changing their communications strategy to be more proactive and aligned.

What is the public's attitude towards aid?

Development Compass project website More about the project on our Quest website

The Team

Professor David Hudson 
University of Birmingham, UK

Professor Jennifer Hudson
University College London, UK

Professor Marianne Stewart 
University of Texas at Dallas

Professor Harold Clarke 
University of Texas at Dallas

Dr Paolo Morini
University College London

Professor David Hudson

Birmingham Professorial Research Fellow in Politics and Development

David is Professor of Politics and Development at the University of Birmingham. He has written widely on the politics of development, in particular on the role of coalitions, leadership and power in reform processes and how development actors can think and work politically; the drivers of global migration, finance and trade and how these processes shape national development; and how people in rich countries engage with global development issues.

David's profile

David Hudson


Hudson, David, N. Susan Laehn, Niheer Dasandi, and Jennifer vanHeerde‐Hudson. (2019) ‘Making and unmaking cosmopolitans: an experimental test of the mediating role of emotions in international development appeals.’ Social Science Quarterly 100, no. 3: 544-564.

Danielle Beswick, Niheer Dasandi, David Hudson and Jennifer vanHeerde-Hudson (2019) ‘International development NGOs, representations in fundraising appeals and public attitudes in UK–Africa relations’ Britain and Africa in the twenty-first century: Between ambition and pragmatism

Scotto, Thomas J., Jason Reifler, David Hudson and vanHeerde-Hudson, Jennifer (2017) ‘We Spend How Much? Misperceptions, Innumeracy, and Support for the Foreign Aid in the United States and Great Britain’., 4(2): 1-10.