From Text to Political Positions on Foreign Aid: Analysis of Aid Mentions in Party Manifestos from 1960 to 2015

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Looking at texts of election manifestos, this paper examines whether there are systematic differences among political parties within and across countries in how they position themselves on foreign aid. Conventional wisdom suggests that left-leaning parties may be more supportive of foreign aid than rightwing parties, but also that foreign aid may not be sufficiently electorally salient for parties to stake out positions in campaign materials, such as manifestos. We leverage a new data set that codes party positions on foreign aid in election manifestos for 13 donors from 1960 to 2015 and find that parties differ systematically in how they engage with foreign aid. Left-leaning governments are more likely to express positive sentiment vis-à-vis aid than right-leaning governments. We evaluate the effects of positions on aid outcomes and find that positive aid views expressed by the party in government translate into higher aid commitments, though only for left-leaning parties.