The Irish government, like many other governments around the world, is concerned with maintaining public support for its development programme. Surveys of Irish public opinion on international development assistance have shown high levels of support combined with relatively low levels of knowledge. Contextualising these finds with surveys of public opinion in other states indicates that while the development project has a comparatively high level of support in Ireland, the Irish population has a comparatively unsophisticated understanding of both the causes of underdevelopment and the range of possible policy solutions. The last major survey of Irish public opinion on development was conducted in 2002, at the beginning of the recent major increases in the aid budget. This article discusses the finding of a survey of university students in Ireland conducted in 2006–7, after the Irish government committed itself to reaching the United Nations target of spending 0.7 per cent of GNP on official development assistance by 2012. The findings of this survey have implications for the content of development education at third level. Students are already persuaded that development is important and are motivated to donate or act; development education efforts, however, need to focus more on creating a better understanding of the causes of underdevelopment and the structural factors relating to interactions between wealthy and poor states.
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