The published version of the ‘Mile Wide and an Inch Deep’ paper is now available in the latest issue of the International Journal of Development Education and Global Learning. Please follow this link for suggested citation and to download the pdf:


In this article we argue that existing survey instruments used to examine public attitudes to global poverty are not fit for purpose. Surveys need to be redesigned to successfully support the threefold purpose of development education and public engagement. The core of our critique is that existing measures suffer from poor measurement validity, and fail to control for knowledge-levels or perceptions of aid effectiveness, both of which are thought to limit support. Researchers also lack understanding of the factors that motivate support for development aid in the first place. We conclude by making recommendations for future surveys of public attitudes and suggest that building support for development may require speaking to many publics as opposed the public.

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12 May, 2010

For some (not that unfathomable) reason global hunger is the thing which annoys and animates me the most.  So I was really pleased to see that the UN have just set up a new campaign to try and get hunger to the top of the political and development agenda.  I’m somewhat sceptical about these sorts of low cost displays of ‘caring’, but having seen what happened with the Robin Hood Tax perhaps I ought to be a little bit more open-minded.

So, please:

(1) follow this link and sign up.  And then send your family and friends your links too.

(2) spend some time to find out a little bit more about the extent of chronic hunger in the world and decide on doing something about it, whether donating, volunteering, or campaigning and lobbying as you see fit.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out.  And interesting to see what people think about this – feel free to comment below.

  • Is global hunger a top priority?
  • Do these sorts of low-cost, online petitions, social media campaigns work, change anything?
  • What do you do?  What should we do?  What can we do?
  • Yellow whistle?

Jennifer and I have been lucky enough to get a fully-funded PhD studentship courtesy of UCL’s Impact studentship funding initiative.  The studentship “offers the successful candidate the opportunity to conduct high-quality research into one or more aspects of political support for development”.

The studentship is specifically designed to allow a PhD student to research and write a thesis building on the work we have carried out on political support for development in the UK (see links at bottom of post).  We have mainly focussed on public opinion so far, and mainly from the perspective of survey data.  We would be delighted if someone were to directly build on this in their own research.  However, we’re keeping the description broader than this in asking for proposals to address: “one or more aspects of political support for development; for example: the strength and nature of public opinion, the drivers of individual level support, the role of lobbying and interest groups in setting the political agenda, and the process of development policy making in the UK.”

We’re looking for good ideas and good students.

Please click here for further details of the studentship:

Finally, any potential applicants should find the following links useful.  They are links to two papers we have written which give a sense of where the idea for the studentship came from.  We are keen to see how people can build on / speak to / complement / develop some of the ideas in them or that they provoke.

UPDATE: February 2010. March 2012: ‘A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep’: Surveys on Public Attitides on Development Aid.

Please click here to download a draft copy of the paper: ‘A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep’: A review and critique of existing surveys on public opinion and development.

As usual comments are very welcome.  Comments will, of course, be duly acknowledged. The present draft is currently with journal reviewers.

Update February 2010.  For the published version of the paper please follow this link to Political Studies.  The article appears in Volume 58 Issue 3 (June 2010).


This is a recent paper that Jennifer van Heerde and I wrote on public attitudes to poverty. Click here to download the pdf of the October 2008 version of the paper.

The paper uses the raw data from the UK Department for International Development’s annual survey into UK public attitudes towards poverty in the developing world.  We find that individual level concern for poverty is affected by whether people see poverty as something which impacts upon them or not – those with self-interested attitudes tend to be less concerned about poverty.  This is important because (1) it suggests that material interests are not a good basis for building support for UK development policy, and (2) DFID and the OECD are looking to harness self-interested attitudes in building this support.  There is also a content analysis of 6 UK newspapers based on the questions from the survey.

This version of the paper is the latest (October 2008) and has been revised and resubmitted to Political Studies in the light of the referees’ comments.  It is hopefully the first in a number of papers that we are preparing on this topic.  Comments are very welcome!


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