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CANADA: Majority Support Guaranteed Income in Angus Reid Poll

A new opinion poll by Canada’s Angus Reid Institute finds a majority of respondents in favor of guaranteed minimum income. However, a majority also believe that the policy is unaffordable and would not support an increase in taxes to fund it.

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) conducted a poll of Canadians’ beliefs and attitudes about guaranteed annual income. The sample consisted of 1516 randomly-selected members of the Angus Reid Forum, a Canada-wide market research community. Individuals can sign up to join the Angus Reid Forum online, after which they are occasionally sent surveys on a wide array of topics.

The questionnaire asked respondents about guaranteed income, defined as follows:  

Those who made less than the threshold through employment earnings would be paid the difference by the federal government, while those who made more than the threshold would receive no additional funding. This payment would typically replace most or all other forms of government assistance, such as welfare and employment insurance.

ARI asked respondents about their support for the policy at three different threshold levels (the sample was divided into thirds, each asked about a different value): $10,000, $20,000, and $30,000.

It was found that 57%, 65% and 67% of respondents supported the guaranteed minimum income at the three respective levels (that is, there was higher support for the more generous guaranteed incomes).

Survey respondents were also asked about their agreement or disagreement with the following statements:

  • “A guaranteed income program would give Canadians greater economic freedom.” (66% agreed)
  • “A guaranteed income program would be too expensive for Canada’s government to afford.” (59% agreed)
  • “I would be willing to pay more in taxes in order to support some kind of guaranteed income.” (34% agreed)
  • “Guaranteed income programs discourage people from working.” (63% agreed)

In addition to asking about guaranteed minimum income specifically, the poll inquired about some of the factors that have been cited to justify the need for such a policy. In particular, subjects were asked whether they believed that elimination of jobs due to new technologies is a serious concern (63% said they did) and whether they consider Canada’s current programs for low-income assistance to be effective (46% said that these programs were either “very” or “moderately” ineffective, compared to 36% judging them very or moderately effective).  

It seems that, in general, members of Canada’s Angus Reid Forum support a guaranteed income, believe that it would enhance economic freedom, and are concerned about technological unemployment and inadequacies in the current Canadian welfare system. However, they show hesitation when it comes to paying for a guaranteed income: most doubt that Canada is currently able to afford it, and most are unwilling to pay more in taxes in order to provide more funds.

The ARI has released comprehensive tables showing the breakdown of responses according to province, gender, age, education level, and household income.

It is worth mentioning that the “guaranteed income” described in the ARI questionnaire differs from a “basic income” as usually described. Notably, under a basic income, the same amount of payment is guaranteed to all, with no means test (although, most likely, higher levels of taxation would entail that individuals above a certain “threshold” would be net contributors rather than beneficiaries).  

Plausibly, a different definition would affect survey results. The lack of means-testing has often been cited as a reason to predict that a basic income would not disincentivize work (in contrast to means-tested welfare programs). Thus, perhaps, people might be somewhat less inclined to think that a UBI would discourage work. On the other hand, opponents often emphasize the universality of basic income as a reason to believe that the policy would be prohibitively expensive; thus, UBI might seem (even) less affordable than a guaranteed income as described in this survey. Of course, until another poll is actually conducted, this all remains speculative.

Policies such as guaranteed minimum income and universal basic income are presently under serious discussion in Canada, with the provincial government of Ontario planning a pilot project.

REFERENCE

Shachi Kurl, “Basic Income? Basic unaffordable, say most Canadians”, Angus Reid Institute; August 11, 2016.

Andrew Russell, “Canadians support guaranteed income, but don’t want to pay for, think it will make us lazy: poll”, Global News; August 12, 2016.


Photo CC BY 2.0 Just a Prairie Boy.  

Article reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan. 

This basic income news made possible in part by Kate’s supporters on Patreon.

Kate McFarland

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 437 articles.

Kate has previously worked as a professional student, but is currently taking a mid-career retirement.

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2 comments

  • Everyone is in favour of getting a GAI, but everyone forgets, somebody has to pay for it.

    I would hope it would be fairer than the current scheme. For example, people without shelter currently get much less money so they are guaranteed to live forever without housing.

    It is not a panacea. We still need mechanisms to give sick and disabled people an extra boost.

  • Jan Morgan

    From the Fraser Institute study of GAI, I gathered that the system would easily pay for itself as most of the various “welfare” systems would disappear and the large numbers of civil servants answering and working on all the various requests and “rules’ could do something more useful.

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