Reconsidering Americans' Overestimates of Government Waste and Foreign Aid

Brief

Reconsidering Americans' Overestimates of Government Waste and Foreign Aid

March 30, 2018

Abstract

Widespread and profound public misinformation about government presents a serious challenge to democratic accountability. This paper demonstrates that two of the most common examples of public misperception may be systematically overestimated; public misperceptions of “foreign aid” spending and “government waste” are in substantial part explained by differences of elite and popular terminology. Failure to take into account what members of the public mean by waste and foreign aid has led researchers, journalists and public officials to misunderstand meaningful public critiques of U.S. policy.

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