Survey Shows Less Americans Prefer Giving to Children Overseas

Americans wanting to help poor children appear more prone to spend their charity dollars within the U.S. than overseas, according to a survey recently released by one of the nation's largest child development organizations. Colorado-based Compassion International, which released the OmniPoll 2004 survey today, found that by nearly an 8-to-1 margin, Americans indicated they would prefer to give money to alleviate poverty in the U.S. rather than overseas (77% to 10%, respectively).

"It appears that Americans often don't understand the scope of the problem in developing countries," said Dr. Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International. "People lack the resources that we enjoy... and there's no government safety net to help them."

In 2003, Americans supported domestic poverty relief over international relief by a 5-to-1 margin.

According to Compassion International, the survey, conducted by the Barna Research Group, also indicated that most Americans (65 percent) believe parents of the poor bear most of the responsibility for helping needy children while a slightly larger group (68 percent) said governments should be taking care of the needy in foreign countries.

"The latest findings point to the overwhelming need we have to educate Americans about children in poverty," Stafford said. "For example, many parents in developing countries are unemployed or living on less than $2 per day. Governments in developing countries simply don't have the resources of the American government. Food stamps and state welfare programs generally don't exist. Compassion wants to educate the American people on ways they can help children in poverty. We don't ever want someone to not do something because they didn't know how to help."

In recent years, it has been estimated that between 25,000-30,000 children under the age of five die every day because of malnutrition and disease.

"I have seen the struggles of children and families living in poverty,” said Child ministry manager with Compassion International, Morompi Ole-Ronkei, who grew up in Kenya as a member of the Maasai tribe. “Each day holds a struggle to access clean water, to avoid diseases like malaria and tuberculosis and to find something to eat. A simple illness or injury can be life threatening when you have no ability to obtain medical care."

"Our long-term tracking of Americans' charitable behavior shows that their preferences swing back and forth between international and domestic causes," said David Kinnaman, vice president of the Barna Research Group. "Now, the pendulum is pointing toward even greater insularity and, consequently, less charitable involvement in global affairs."

The Barna OmniPoll included 1,011 telephone interviews conducted among a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 within the 48 continental states from September 16 through September 22.