A telephone survey finds 11 percent of U.S. voters favor a Basic Income Grant. The survey was conducted by Rasmussen Reports and published on Thursday, September 1, 2011. Rasmussen found that 82 percent of respondents opposed the idea. Rasmussen surveyed 1000 people and claims a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent with 95 percent confidence.
The exact question was, “Another proposal has been made for the federal government to provide every single American with a basic income grant. The idea would be to provide enough money for everyone to enjoy a modest living regardless of whether or not they choose to work. Do you favor or oppose having the federal government provide every single American with a basic income grant?”
Although the percentage is very small, 11 percent of Americans is 33 million people, who answered yes to question asked out of the blue about a policy that has be no part of the public discussion in U.S. politics for 30 years. One surprising fact is that someone is actually surveying Americans about this issue.
The same survey found that that 49% of American Adults think government programs increase the level of poverty in the United States. Add to that 19 percent who believe government programs do nothing to help poverty shows that nearly as many Americans (68 percent) oppose nearly anything the government is doing to fight poverty as oppose BIG (80 percent). Only 20 percent of respondents said that current government programs decrease the poverty.
For the Rasmusson report on the survey go to:
I wonder if there is a message being conveyed in the last paragraph by noting that Americans reject government programs against poverty almost as widely as they do a Basic Income Grant. And if so, is it to reassure readers that while a BIG may not appeal to them, neither do the current programs? Or, perhaps, that just because a majority oppose an idea, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done? Be that as it may, why do Americans give the thumbs-down to a BIG?
I suspect that they are not alone in this regard. Iranians would likely do so as well in response to the same question. But Iran has a de facto basic income in place since nearly a year ago and some 73 million people (97 percent of the population) receive the equivalent of US$40-45 per person every month. If this transfer program is accepted by the public it is not because it is a right of citizenship as such but because it represents compensation for cuts in energy price subsidies. The success of promotional efforts depends much on how a BI or BI-like program is justified. The rights-based arguments are often hard to sell to the general public. People are more likely to be persuaded if they see it as some kind of a compensation or replacement for a less efficient, less just existing benefit. The principle of reciprocity should perhaps not be dismissed but used to advantage in promoting basic income.