Two thirds of the British public support a universal basic income, poll finds

The policy also has significant support across the European Union

Jon Stone
Monday 23 May 2016 12:47 BST
Basic income is increasingly being discussed as an idea
Basic income is increasingly being discussed as an idea

A strong majority of the British public in principle support the introduction of a so-called Universal Basic Income, a new poll suggests.

An opinion study asked respondents what they thought of “an income unconditionally paid by the government to every individual regardless of whether they work and irrespective of any other sources of income”.

Having it explained that the income “replaces other social security payments and is high enough to cover all basic needs”, 62 per cent of the UK population said it would support such a policy.

The UK result was part of a wider study of EU-wide opinion on the subject conducted by German pollsters Dalia Research.

They surveyed a sample of 10,000 people across the EU, representative of the EU’s 28 contrives by phone.

UK support was slightly lower than the EU average of 64 per cent. The highest support for the concept came from Spain, where 71 per cent of respondents said they would support such a measure.

There, the policy has been discussed as a potential long-term aspiration of the political party Podemos’s platform.

Switzerland, which is outside the EU, is this summer to hold a referendum on introducing such a basic income. Polls suggest around 40 per cent of the population are likely to vote for the measure, not enough to implement it.

Studies on the policy are being actively carried out in Finland and some Dutch municipalities, and there have been calls from legislators for similar studies in France and the UK.

35 MPs from various parties have so farsigned an Early Day Motion saying the policy should be examined further in the UK.

The support for the policy shown in the poll conflicts slightly with an earlier poll by YouGov conducted late last year.

When asked whether the Government should “remove all welfare benefits and state pension paid to people and give all British citizens a flat-rate monthly payment instead” 18 per cent of the public said they agreed and 53 per cent said they disagreed. 29 per cent said they did not know.

The result should be treated with caution as neither poll touched on how the policy might be funded.

A study by the RSA think-tank conducted last year recommended a basic income as a policy to safeguard the future of the welfare state.

The Green Party has long supported a universal basic income as party policy. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he is interested in the idea but that details would need working out.

The SNP’s Westminster work spokesperson Neil Gray has called for more research into the policy, and party members passed a motion at its annual conference this year suggesting a basic income could have a place in an independent Scotland.

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