Beliefs in Foreign Policy Goals and American Citizens’ Support for Foreign Aid

This study examines the role of beliefs in foreign policy goals in accounting for American citizens’ support for foreign aid to various countries. Previous studies on public opinion on foreign policy showed the existence of organized and structured beliefs among the mass public. But few studies explore the effect of these beliefs in goals on American citizens’ policy preferences. Based on the theoretical proposition that individuals are motivated by goals and principles, this study tests the effect of these beliefs on citizens’ support for foreign aid. Two prominent goals that this study explores are humanitarianism and domestic interests. They represent goals of traditional idealism and realism. Results show that, in addition to commonly accepted isolationism, these two beliefs drive citizens’ support for foreign aid. Those individuals who believe in humanitarianism are more likely to support foreign aid, while those individuals who care about domestic interests are less likely to support such aid. Furthermore, more sophisticated individuals tend to be able to use a belief in goals more effectively than less sophisticated individuals in accounting for their support for foreign aid.