Why has the COVID-19 pandemic increased support for Universal Basic Income

Daniel Nettle*, Elliott Johnson, Matthew Johnson, Rebecca Saxe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The onset of the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic led to a marked increase in positive discussion of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in political and media circles. However, we do not know whether there was a corresponding increase in support for the policy in the public at large, or why. Here, we present three studies carried out during 2020 in UK and US samples. In study 1 (n = 802, April 2020), people expressed much stronger support for a UBI policy for the times of the pandemic and its aftermath than for normal times. This was largely explained by the increased importance they attached, in the pandemic context, to a system that is simple and efficient to administer, and that reduces stress and anxiety in society. In study 2 (n = 400, May 2020), we pitted UBI against a conditional targeted social transfer system. Preferences for UBI were stronger for pandemic times than for normal times. This was partially explained by a number of perceived advantages, such as simplicity of administration and suitability for a changing world. In study 3 (n = 397, September 2020), we found that the headline results of studies 1 and 2 persisted six months after the onset of the pandemic, albeit with attenuated effect sizes. Our results illustrate how a changing social and economic situation can bring about markedly different policy preferences, through changes in citizens’ perceptions of what is currently important.
Original languageEnglish
Article number79
Number of pages12
JournalHumanities and Social Science Communications
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

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