Published On: Thu, May 1st, 2014

New Survey: Most Americans don’t think global poverty can be overcome

The war to overcome global poverty is ongoing with some pointing to progress, but Amercians appear pessimistic. Most Americans see no end in sight, according to a survey sponsored by Compassion International.

the Poverty and Justice BibleChristians who attend church at least monthly and consider religion very important in their life overwhelmingly (96 percent) expressed concern about the world’s poorest people. The same group is skeptical that it will ended in the next 25 years with only 41 percent of the group said it was possible.

Scott Todd of Compassion International, the Christian nonprofit agency that sponsors 1.5 million children abroad, remains upbeat. He sees hope in the numbers of “practicing Christians” who express concern about poverty and a willingness to do more.

Less “practicing” Christians and people of other faiths (or no faith), showed notably less concern and a higher degree of skepticism in the survey conducted by Barna Research.

The survey offered a target date of 25 years for altering the lives of 1.4 billion people who need clean water, shelter, sufficient nutrition and basic health care such as antibiotics and vaccines. 

“That is not a magic date, but if you ask people about fighting poverty without a time frame, they can’t assess it,” Todd said. “They give answers like ‘after the Second Coming.’ We know there has been incredible progress  and the world has seen an incredible drop in poverty in one generation. But people don’t know this.”

Only 32 percent of all adults see an end to poverty in 25 years. The top five reasons they give for why this can’t be done:

* Poverty will always exist: 21 percent
* Not enough people care: 20 percent
* Lack of a collective global effort: 17 percent
* The enormity of the problem: 17 percent
* Corrupt governments: 14 percent 

Fatalism dominates the answers:

* 59 percent “don’t trust the governments of poor nations.”
* 56 percent “don’t know what organizations to trust.”
* 55 percent “believe that money should be spent on needs at home.”

“We have seen a steep rise in transparency, efficiency and democracy have led to improvements,” Todd said, noting that theft, profiteering, and poor delivery are no longer commonplace.

The survey found that four in 10 people said they gave nothing in 2013 to combat global poverty;  the median gift was just $5 per month for all adults. However, it was more than double — $13 per month — for practicing Christians (38 percent of all surveyed).

“The practicing Christians may not be the largest group, but if they increased their giving by just 1 percent, we’d have $25 billion more for the work of supporting the poor,” Todd calculated. “We know people are grief-stricken by poverty, but we want them to see an opportunity to make history, to end poverty in a generation.”

Todd examines the topic with great detail in his new book – “Hope Rising”


The survey of 1,052 U.S. adults, conducted online between Dec. 11 and 28,  has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Hope Rising book cover Scott Todd

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  1. Scott Todd talks Compassion International, global poverty and his new book ‘Hope Rising’ - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] recent global poverty survey by Compassion International revealed some shocking news: most Americans don’t believe […]

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