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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Article number79
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>17/03/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Humanities and Social Science Communications
Number of pages12
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


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.