Trade and Investment

The majority of Americans are against a universal basic income -  study

American citizens flying American flags

UBI was the centerpiece of former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign. Image: Unsplash

Hannah Gilberstadt
Research assistant on U.S. politics and policy, Pew Research Center
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  • A narrow majority, 54% of Americans, are opposed to the idea of a universal basic income (UBI).
  • Whilst the overall results are fairly close, there are stark contrasts based on certain demographics.
  • For example, 72% of those 65 and older oppose the proposal, whilst 77% of black Democrats support the idea.

A narrow majority of U.S. adults (54%) say they would oppose the federal government providing a guaranteed income – sometimes called a universal basic income (UBI) – of about $1,000 per month for all adult citizens, whether or not they work; 45% favor the proposal.

Young people favour a universal income, by about two-to-one.
How different demographics view a UBI. Image: Pew Research Center

The idea of the government providing a universal basic income for all adult citizens draws broad and intense opposition among Republicans, but is generally supported by Democrats, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

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Nearly eight-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (78%) oppose the federal government providing a universal basic income of about $1,000 per person, with 62% strongly opposed. A smaller share of Democrats and Democratic leaners (66%) favor a UBI, with just a third supporting the proposal strongly.

UBI was the centerpiece of former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign. Yang is scheduled to speak to the Democratic National Convention on Aug. 20, shortly before Joe Biden accepts the party’s presidential nomination.

There also are wide age, race and income differences in views of the government providing a universal basic income of about $1,000 for each adult citizen, whether or not they work. Adults under age 30 favor the government providing a UBI by roughly two-to-one (67% to 33%). There is far less support among older adults: 72% of those 65 and older oppose the proposal, while just 26% are in favor.

Majorities of Black (73%) and Hispanic adults (63%) favor the government providing a UBI, compared with 35% of White adults. And while the proposal draws broad opposition from adults in upper- and middle-income households, a 63% majority of those in lower-income households favor it.

Sizeable age and income differences in the views of a UBI.
How demographics in certain parties view a UBI. Image: Pew Research Center

In both parties, younger adults and those with lower incomes express higher levels of support for the federal government providing a UBI for all adult citizens. While majorities of Republicans across age groups oppose the UBI proposal, 41% of Republicans ages 18 to 34 favor it, by far the highest share of any GOP age group.

Among Democrats, support for a UBI also is much higher among adults ages 18 to 34 than among older people.

About four-in-ten Republicans in lower-income households (43%) favor the government providing a universal basic income, compared with 17% of those with middle incomes and just 8% of those with upper incomes. There are similar income differences among Democrats. Still, Democrats across income and age categories are far more likely than Republicans in those groups to favor a universal basic income.

There are also racial and ethnic differences in these views among Democrats, though majorities of Black (77%), Hispanic (70%) and White Democrats (61%) support the federal government providing a universal basic income for all adult citizens.

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