Domestic politics and changes in foreign aid allocation: the role of party preferences

Zachary Greene, Amanda Licht

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Resources for foreign aid come under attack when parties that care little for international affairs come to power. Internationally focused parties of the left and right, however, prefer to use aid as a tool to pursue their foreign policy goals. Yet varying goals based on left-right ideology differentiate the way donors use foreign aid. We leverage sector aid to test hypotheses from our Partisan Theory of Aid Allocation and find support for the idea that domestic political preferences affect foreign aid behavior. Left-internationalist governments increase disaster aid, while parochial counterparts cut spending on budget assistance and aid that bolsters recipients' trade viability. Conservative governments favor trade-boosting aid. We find consistent, nuanced, evidence for our perspective from a series of Error Correction Models and extensive robustness checks. By connecting theories of foreign aid to domestic politics, our approach links prominent, but often disconnected, fields of political research and raises important questions for policymakers interested in furthering the efficacy of development aid.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Early online date31 Oct 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Oct 2017


  • foreign aid allocation
  • donor ideology
  • internationalism
  • sectoral aid
  • domestic politics
  • OECD donor states
  • party politics
  • multi-dimensional preferences

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