Public support universal basic income, job guarantee and rent controls to respond to coronavirus pandemic, poll finds

Political terrain in UK seems to have opened up in wake of crisis

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Monday 27 April 2020 18:28 BST
All you need to know from the latest UK coronavirus briefing

The coronavirus pandemic has produced an unprecedented surge in public support for a range of radical economic policies, a new survey has found.

Pollsters YouGov found that a majority of the public support paying people a universal basic income to ensure their financial security, introducing a jobs guarantee to keep employment stable, and bringing in rent controls to limit housing costs.

The poll is the latest evidence that the crisis has opened up Britain's political terrain to new ideas - with a Tory chancellor unveiling an unprecedented package of state support for families and businesses that would have been unthinkable just months ago.

Research reported by The Independent last week also found that the public want the government to treat the climate crisis as seriously and urgently as it has the pandemic - another sign of the public mood.

In the latest poll, YouGov found that 72 per cent of the public support a job guarantee, "where the government makes sure everyone who can work has a job". Just six per cent of the public were unsupportive. Under such a scheme the state would find jobs for people on public works or link them up with private sector employers.

A similar policy has previously been proposed by some economists as a way to control unemployment, with Labour's 2015 manifesto under Ed Miliband containing a version of the policy that emphasised its compulsory nature. Today's survey found strong support for the guarantee across all demographics.

51 per cent of the public also support a universal basic income, "where the government makes sure everyone has an income, without a means test or requirement to work". Just 24 per cent are unsupportive of the idea, with 9 per cent saying they do not know how they feel.

The idea a basic income has been backed by dozens of MPs from across the political spectrum as a solution to workers falling through the cracks of the current government support scheme - including the self-employed. Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has however criticised the idea, suggesting it would be a disincentive to work during the crisis and would be badly targeted.

Tory voters were the least enthusiastic about a basic income, with only narrow support - 39 per cent in favour to 37 per cent opposed.

Labour last week rejected the idea of a universal basic income during the Covi-19 crisis, with a spokesperson for Keir Starmer stating that “creating an entirely new social security system is unlikely to be possible during the crisis". Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has previously toyed with the policy and suggested Labour could have piloted the idea if elected.

Spain's government, a coalition of the centre-left PSOE and left-wing Podemos parties, announced it was moving to introduce a basic income to help its citizens.

The final policy polled by YouGov was on rent controls, described to the weighted polling panel as a policy where "where the government sets caps on what lands can charge, or freezing rents". This policy was supported by 74 per cent of the public with just 8 per cent unsupportive.

Voters from all parties supported the policy by large margins, with little variations between different demographics. Britain is unusual in Europe in having no controls at all on its rents since they were abolished in the 1980s.

Fatima Ibrahim from campaign group Green New Deal UK, which commissioned the polling, said, “Huge numbers of Brits believe that the country was ill-prepared for this pandemic, just as it is ill-prepared for climate breakdown.

"The need for a new deal for this country is clear - and sky high support for policies like a jobs guarantee and rent freezes shows that there is no going back to the economy built on the shaky foundations we had before.

"If your house fell down, you would rebuild the bits you love, but you would also deal with the leaky roof and draughty windows. That’s why we need a new deal for the country, we must build back better.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in