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Africa: Polls and Policy

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jul 1, 2005 (050701)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

The Program on International Policy Attitudes has released new poll data, from the United States and from eight African countries, showing wide public support for stronger international action to confront African problems, including United Nations intervention to stop "severe human rights violations such as genocide" and fulfillment of the pledge by rich countries to spend 0.7% of national income to combat world poverty.

In itself such poll data seems to have little effect on policy, but it does point to public receptivity if political leaders were to take more ambitious steps. Indications are that the approaching G-8 Summit will at best chalk up only marginal moves to meet the needs. Nevertheless, the pressure to 'do something' will likely continue to grow, boosted in part by media campaigns such as "Make Poverty History" and Live 8 but more fundamentally by the inadequacy of existing policies and resources.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two press releases from PIPA, one on the African and U.S. polls relating to multilateral intervention in African conflicts, and the other on the U.S. poll on willingness to support additional funds to combat poverty.

For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins on peace and security issues, visit

For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins on development and economic issues, visit

For a report on President Bush's latest pledge to 'do more' to fight poverty in Africa, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

AfricaFocus Update: "Aid" Reality Checks

AfricaFocus Bulletin on June 28 featured excerpts from two reports raising questions about the quantity and quality of "aid" (see Two stories from today's Washington Post (, both highlighted on the front page, show that mainstream media are also raising questions.

One story reports President George Bush's announcement of a new U.S. pledge of $1.2 billion over five years to fight malaria. But another reports on U.S. claims earlier this year that 32,839 AIDS patients in Botswana were on antiretroviral treatment as a result of U.S. support. In "Botswana's Gains against AIDS put U.S. Claims to Test," journalist Craig Tinberg noted that "The total outlay of U.S. government funds for 'treatment' in Botswana last year was $2.5 million, about one-twentieth of the amount paid by the Botswana government. And even that money was delayed by many months." Additional U.S. funds are still reported to be coming, but to date, Botswana officials told the Post, the number of patients on treatment due primarily to the Bush AIDS program is exactly zero.

African Public Says UN Has Right to Intervene to Stop Genocide
US Public Favors UN Intervention in Darfur
7 in 10 Favor More Support to African Union Operation

The Pipa/Knowledge Networks Poll.
The American Public on International Issues

Media Release

29 June 2005

Contact: Lloyd Hetherington 416-969-3085; Steven Kull, 202-232-7500

College Park, MD: While the leaders of African countries have shown strong resistance to non-African forces intervening in the crisis in Darfur, a GlobeScan poll finds that in eight African countries surveyed a majority (7 countries) or a plurality (1 country) believe the UN should have the right to intervene to stop human rights abuses such as genocide, and that the UN is the most popular force to intervene in situations like Darfur. Likewise, a PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll finds 61% [of the U.S. public] favor the UN intervening in the crisis in Darfur, with 54% willing to contribute US troops. Seven in ten favor NATO, including the US, providing support to the African Union peacekeeping operation in Darfur.

Africa Poll

The eight-nation GlobeScan poll of 10,809 Africans (margin of error +/-2-3%) found that overall, 65% of Africans interviewed believe the UN Security Council should have the right to authorize the use of military force to prevent severe human rights violations such as genocide, while just 19% are opposed. Support was strongest among those in Ghana (80%), Kenya (75%), Nigeria (66%), Tanzania (66%), Zimbabwe (65%), and Cameroon (64%), while milder support was found among Angolans (55%) and South Africans (47%). Opposition to UN intervention was the highest among Angolans (37%), but in most other countries less than one in five were opposed. Africans show widespread openness to the idea of multilateral military intervention in their own country in the event of a conflict "like Darfur." When asked who they would prefer to intervene in the event of such a conflict, UN military troops received the widest endorsement (30%), followed by the African Union (22%). The idea of intervention by rich countries acting alone was endorsed by just 5%.

Countries endorsing the UN for this role most strongly were Ghana (48%), Kenya and Zimbabwe (both 35%). The lowest level of support for the UN was in South Africa (21%), but this was still more than the number of South Africans who preferred the African Union (12%). In three countries, the proportion of people preferring the AU and the UN were about the same Tanzania (28% and 25% respectively), Angola and Nigeria (22% and 25% in both cases). The greatest number of people rejecting any foreign military intervention was in Cameroon (20%); the smallest number was in Ghana (6%).

Awareness of the situation in Darfur is fairly low. Just over one-third of Africans interviewed (36%) say they have heard or read a great deal or a fair amount about "the conflict in the Sudan region called Darfur." Attitudes about whether the UN should have the right to intervene are not significantly different between those with higher or lower levels of awareness. While African support for intervention is much higher with UN authorization when it comes to severe human rights abuses such as genocide, Africans do not reject the idea of a country being able to intervene even when it does not have UN approval. In such cases, half (51%) say a country should have the right to intervene even without UN authorization, while three in ten (28%) disagree.

Lloyd Hetherington comments, "Clearly Africans are looking outside their own countries and especially to the United Nations to help deal with some of their problems. Contrary to their leaders, it appears that they would like to see the UN intervene in dealing with problems such as the crisis in Darfur, with a growing confidence in the African Union to also take on this role." These findings are from a larger annual survey of African public opinion called "Africa in the New Century," tracking attitudes of Africans on key issues, with the support of the Commission for Africa and syndicated subscribers. The survey of 10,809 Africans from eight countries (Angola, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe) was conducted between October and December 2004.

US Poll

A new PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll of 812 Americans finds majority support for several forms of intervention in the crisis in Darfur. The poll was conducted June 22-26 and has a margin of error of 3.5%.

Asked whether UN members should "step in with military force to stop the violence in Darfur," 61% said that it should, while 32% said that it should not. This support was bipartisan: 67% of Republicans and 62% of Democrats favored it. Independents were a bit lower at 52%. A majority, albeit a slightly smaller one, also favored contributing US troops to a multilateral operation in Darfur. Asked "If other members of the UN are willing to contribute troops to a military operation in Darfur, do you think the US should or should not be willing to contribute some troops as well?" 54% said that it should, while 39% were opposed. Here again support was quite bipartisan. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans and 56% of Democrats favored contributing US troops.

Support is even higher for providing equipment and logistical support to the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur. Respondents were told, "At present there is a peacekeeping force in Darfur made up of soldiers from African countries. But this force is quite weak and its presence has not stopped the violence. The African Union has asked NATO for equipment and logistical support." They were then asked, "Do you think that NATO, including the US, should or should not provide such help?" Seventy-one percent said the US should, while 21% said it should not. Here again support was highly bipartisan, with 73% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats favoring providing such assistance.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, "What is quite striking here is that even as the US is tied down in Iraq and suffering daily casualties, a majority of Americans would support contributing troops to a multilateral operation in Darfur. This suggests that what is occurring there goes against strongly held values in the American public. Indeed, multiple polls have found that many Americans believe that if severe human rights abuses are occurring, especially genocide, the UN should have the right to intervene and the US should be willing to contribute troops."

When the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in 2004 asked whether the UN should have the right to intervene in the event of human right abuses such as genocide the same question asked in the eight-nation African poll 85% of Americans and 94% of American leaders agreed that the UN should have the right to intervene. Also, in the same CCFR poll, 75% favored using US troops "To stop a government from committing genocide and killing large numbers of its own people."

US public support for intervention in Darfur may vary, depending on whether Americans assume that what is occurring in Darfur falls in the category of genocide. In December 2004, when the Bush administration was stating that genocide was occurring in Darfur, PIPA/KN asked whether the UN should intervene with military force "to stop the genocide in Darfur." Seventy-four percent said it should and 60% said that the US should contribute troops. In light of the UN report that determined that war crimes and genocidal intent were occurring in Darfur, but refrained from labeling it genocide, the present poll presented the situation more equivocally, referring to "large-scale violence in Darfur, Sudan, that some, including the Bush administration, have called genocide." In this case support for UN intervention was 13 points lower and support for the US contributing troops was 6 points lower.

The poll was fielded by Knowledge Networks using its nationwide panel, which is randomly selected from the entire adult population and subsequently provided internet access. For more information about this methodology, go to Funding for this research was provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Ford Foundation. A full report and the questionnaire can be found at

Americans Support US and G8 Countries Committing to Spend 0.7% GDP on World Poverty
Willing to Spend Up to $50 Year Per Household on Millennium Development Goals
Oppose Most Farm Subsidies

The Pipa/Knowledge Networks Poll.
The American Public on International Issues

Media Release

29 June 2005

Contact: Steven Kull 202-232-7500

College Park, MD: A major focus of the upcoming G-8 Summit of the major industrial powers will be several ideas for addressing world poverty, especially in Africa. A new PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll of 812 Americans finds that a majority of Americans are supportive of these ideas. One of these ideas is that wealthy countries should commit to spend seven-tenths of one percent of their GDP to address world poverty, especially in Africa. Sixty-five percent of Americans favored the US making such a commitment, provided that the other wealthy countries do so as well. Support was higher among Democrats (77%), but was still a majority among Republicans (57%).

Another idea that received strong support was for the wealthy countries to commit to a set of goals called the Millennium Development Goals. Respondents were told, "As you may know, the US and other wealthy countries have set for themselves a series of goals, called the Millennium Development Goals. These call for reducing hunger by half, providing basic sanitation in poor countries, and other goals by the year 2015." They were then asked to assume that the costs would either be an average of $15, $30 or $50 "a year per taxpaying household in the wealthy countries" and that "other countries were willing to give this much." [See note below explaining these cost estimates.]

Overall 71% said that the US should be willing to give the $15, $30 or $50. There was no significant difference in the level of support depending on the amount assumed. Democrats were only slightly more likely to approve than Republicans.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA comments, "Americans sometimes resist major efforts to address world poverty because they tend to incorrectly assume that people in other countries are not giving as much as they are. When it is assumed that all of the wealthy countries will be doing a comparable amount, Americans show a readiness to spend substantial amounts to address world poverty; amounts that, if committed, would produce a marked reduction in world poverty."

Another key topic related to world poverty to be discussed at the G-8 Summit is farm subsidies. Farmers in developing countries have had a difficult time competing with farmers in developed countries in part because the latter receive major subsidies from their governments. Advocates for reducing world poverty have called for cutting back or eliminating such subsidies.

A large majority of Americans oppose most of the subsidies that go to American farmers. More than eighty percent of US farm subsidies go to large farming businesses. A large majority of Americans 74% favor subsidies to small farmers, who, in fact receive less than one fifth of farm subsidies. However 70% of Americans oppose the lion's share of subsidies that go to large farming companies.

Americans also want subsidies to be given in a more restricted fashion than they are presently. While most subsidies are given on a regular annual basis not just in bad years only 28% of Americans favor giving subsidies to small farmers on a regular annual basis and only 9% favor giving such regular subsidies to large farming companies.

The motive for opposing most of the subsidies given by the US government is not, however, derived from concerns about their impact on poor farmers abroad. Most Americans do not appear to understand the effects of farm subsidies on agriculture in other countries. Only 19% said that they thought that US farm subsidies "hurt farmers in poor countries," while 71% assumed that they "have no significant effect on farmers in poor countries."

Steven Kull comments, "While most Americans do not seem to understand how US farm subsidies can hurt farmers in poor countries, nonetheless, an overwhelming majority oppose most of the subsidies the US gives to farmers, i.e. regular annual subsidies to large farming companies. Thus the public would probably support the US agreeing to cut most US farm subsidies at the G- 8 Summit, though not out of a desire to help poor farmers."

The poll was conducted June 22-26 with a nationwide sample of 812 American adults. The margin of error was 3.5-4%, depending on whether the question went to the full sample or part of the sample. The poll was fielded by Knowledge Networks, using its nationwide panel, which is randomly selected from the entire adult population and subsequently provided internet access. For more information about this methodology, go to Funding for this research was provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Ford Foundation and Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities. A full report and the questionnaire can be found at

Note: Cost estimates for meeting Millennium Development Goals

The figures of $15, $30, and $50 per year were varied because there are varying ways to estimate the costs of meeting the Millennium Development Goals. If only one goal is pursued cutting in half the number of people living on one dollar a day--the World Bank estimates a cost of $39-54 billion a year in additional aid. If all twenty of the OECD countries that give aid paid their share on a per capita basis, this would result in a cost of approximately $15 per household. If all the Millennium Development Goals are pursued and are pursued interdependently (the most economical approach) by both donor and recipient countries, the World Bank estimates that the cost would be $40-60 billion a year or roughly $30 per household. Allowing for large errors in these estimates, or a lack of coordination in execution, the figure of $50 per household is a very high-end estimate. (See for the World Bank summary paper, "The Costs of Attaining the Millennium Development Goals.")

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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