Aiding strangers: Generalized trust and the moral basis of public support for foreign development aid

Bayram, A. Burcu. Foreign Policy Analysis.

Why do publics in donor countries support development foreign aid? Focusing on material factors, ideology, and identities, the literature has largely neglected the moral basis of foreign aid attitudes. I argue that generalized trust, defined as the belief in the integrity and trustworthiness of people, is a crucial component of the moral calculus of publics in donor countries. Using data from independently conducted surveys of global (World Values Survey) and American mass publics (Core Values Project Survey), I show that generalized trusters are more likely to aid the have-nots of the world than those who lack trust in people. This finding indicates that the bonds of trust expand the boundaries of global justice. By illuminating the role generalized trust plays in shaping donor public attitudes towards development foreign aid, this study helps improve the political economy, ideology, and identity models of aid, contributing to the literatures on foreign aid and foreign policy attitudes, and to theories of cosmopolitan global justice.