Earlier this year, polling showed that less than one in ten people know what the phrase ‘universal basic income’ means.
Redfield & Wilton has now tried out explaining UBI to people and seeing what they then think of it:
Universal Basic Income is a programme whereby a Government guarantees every adult citizen a certain amount of money each year. This guaranteed income would be given to all adult citizens without exception, regardless of their employment status or their wealth. To what extent, if at all, would you support or oppose the implementation of Universal Basic Income in the UK?
The result? 59% support it and 17% oppose it.
An important caveat, however. Such single question probes into the popularity of a policy are very fragile. Even when a question is worded clearly and neutrally, it can often give an answer very different from how the public ends up viewing a policy.
The 2017 dementia tax is a classic example. In Conservative Party polling, a neutrally worded question found the policy did fine with the public. In the heat of an election campaign, and with the dementia tax label attached, the policy bombed.
Going further back, the concept of replacing council tax with a local income tax often did well in Liberal Democrat market research. It then did rather less well when exposed to counter-arguments in the heat of elections.
The wording used by Redfield & Wilton is pretty good, but it doesn’t present any counter-arguments or information on where the money would come from. It’s also just the one question. So don’t read too much into that 59%. It’s a straw in the wind rather than a reliable foundation on which to make decisions.
But 59% is definitely a much more positive finding than 9% would have been.
The poll also asked if people would be more or less likely to vote for a party that supports UBI. However such questions, although popular, are so deeply flawed and so poor a predictor of what voters end up doing that I’ve got a whole section in my next book on why you should ignore such questions.