New research into public attitudes to “Development”

22/02/2013 at 2:37 pm 1 comment


In December 2012, Suas presented the results of a piece of research by Amárach Research, on Irish university students’ views on global development.

The report is available on a dedicated website, which also features interesting commentaries. (Read the summary of the research here )

The findings present some serious challenges for anyone working on global development issues.

As was the case with the Dóchas opinion polls of previous years, this new survey of some 1,000 third level students showed that, despite a severe economic crisis at home, people in Ireland continue to feel strongly about global justice.

Only 13% of students believe, for instance, that ‘developing countries should be left to tackle their own problems.’ And 85% think it is ‘important’ to take action on global development issues. (Interestingly, unlike in the Dóchas polls and other surveys in Ireland, the Suas survey showed higher levels of support for global solidarity among women than among men.)

But the survey also showed that Irish students don’t really think they can have any meaningful impact.

A large majority of students (78%) agree ‘the action of individuals in the first world can have repercussions for the developing world’. (Even more strikingly 68% ‘agree’ ‘the actions of people in the first world are partly responsible for problems in the developing world’.) But only 20% of students are confident in their ability to influence decisions affecting other parts of the world – with only 35% of students confident to influence decisions affecting their own local area.

In other words, young people do want to help bring about a better world, but they don’t really think they can make any difference.

This finding echoes Dóchas’ research which shows that people support overseas aid, even if half of them think it is not making any difference. (In the Suas survey, 47% of respondents believed standards of living in developing countries have improved over the past ten years; in the Dóchas survey, 44% of people thought Africa was the same or worse off than 20 years ago).


And, like many such surveys, answers show that many people in Ireland believe that poverty is inherently poor countries’ own fault: War, Conflict and Corruption are listed as the top reasons why countries are poor (although 43% also list ‘better-off countries taking advantage of developing countries’ as a reason).

And finally: A majority of students (61%) said that the Internet was their preferred channel through which to receive information about development issues. So hopefully some of the 1,000 students interviewed will find their way to this blog, or will join our discussions on bringing about a fairer Ireland in a fairer world.

Equally, the 63% that don’t think that lobbying the Irish Government is working, might do worse than visiting!)


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