Universal Basic Income Supported by a Majority of British Public

April 2, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Economic Policy | The Economy
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The idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI)—a programme whereby a Government guarantees every adult citizen a certain amount of money each year, regardless of their employment status or wealth—has been proposed by some as a way to alleviate the economic hardships inflicted by the coronavirus crisis. The UK Parliament debated the topic in October 2020 after a petition in favour of UBI received over 100,000 signatures, to which the Government responded that the idea ‘does not target help to those who need it most.’

In Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest poll in Great Britain, 58% of respondents said they had not heard of UBI. 42% had heard of the idea, a decrease from 48% when we asked this question in July 2020.  

When the concept of Universal Basic Income was outlined to respondents, 59% said they would support the implementation of UBI, up slightly from 56% in July 2020. Under a fifth (17%) of respondents said they would oppose the UK implementing Universal Basic Income.

Respondents who had already heard of UBI (73%) are much more likely to support the idea’s implementation than those who had not heard of it (51%).

Although a majority of all age groups said they would support the implementation of UBI, there is a stark division according to age: 69% to 70% of respondents among the three youngest age groups said they would support UBI, compared to 51% to 55% among the three eldest age groups. Support is highest among 18-to-24-year-olds (70%) and lowest among those 65 and over (51%).

There is also a significant difference in responses based on 2019 General Election vote, as 72% of Labour voters and 49% of Conservative voters said they would support Universal Basic Income in the UK. A considerable 25% of Conservative voters said they would oppose UBI, though a plurality support.

The idea of Universal Basic Income is advocated for by the Green Party, the SNP, and the Liberal Democrats, but it is not currently part of the Labour or Conservative platforms. A plurality (39%) of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a major party or political candidate if they were to adopt Universal Basic Income as part of their platform, a slight decrease from 41% in July 2020. Meanwhile, 17% of Britons said they would be less likely to vote for a party or candidate with UBI in its platform and 34% said they would be neither more nor less likely to vote for such a party or candidate.     

Among respondents who said they would strongly support the implementation of UBI, 74% said they would be more likely to vote for a major party or political candidate if they were to adopt UBI as part of their platform. Similarly, 87% of respondents who said they would strongly oppose UBI also said they would be less likely to vote for such a party or candidate, suggesting that Universal Basic Income is an important election issue for both those who strongly support the idea and those who strongly oppose it. 

Almost half (47%) of respondents aged 18 to 24, 25 to 34, and 35 to 44 said they would be more likely to vote for a major party or candidate if they adopted UBI as part of their platform. By contrast, 30% of those aged 65 and over said they would be more likely, while 20% said they would be less likely to vote for a party or candidate which advocated for UBI.

A greater proportion of 2019 Labour voters (49%) than 2019 Conservative voters (30%) also said they would be more likely to vote for a major party or candidate if they were to include UBI as part of their platform. A plurality of 39% of Conservative voters said they would be neither more nor less likely to vote for a party or candidate if they adopted UBI as part of their platform.

Upon a brief explanation, Universal Basic Income appears to have the support of a majority of Britons––though over half of respondents had not previously known about the idea. UBI is particularly supported by the younger members of the public and those who voted Labour in the 2019 Election, and overall opposition remains low at 17%. Public opinion on Universal Basic Income has not changed significantly since July 2020, but there has been a slight increase in support for the idea, which could continue to grow as the pandemic’s economic repercussions continue to be felt.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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