Public opinion on basic income: Mapping European support for a radical alternative for welfare provision

Femke Roosma*, W.J.H. van Oorschot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)
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The idea of a universal basic income (BI) is both radical and simple. Obtaining a sufficient citizenship-based income without work obligations is fundamentally opposing the foundations of the welfare systems that are in place nowadays. As BI has gained increasing attention in public debates and among policymakers, questions arise about its social legitimacy. This study is the first to analyse a broad range of explanatory individual and contextual factors that may affect popular support for BI. In addition, we study how BI support is related to support of current welfare provisions, to analyse how radically different people perceive a BI to be. We use a unique survey question – available for 23 European countries, from the recent release of the European Social Survey (2016) –that introduces BI with an extended definition, emphasizing its universal and unconditional character and that it will replace other benefits and services and is paid for by taxes. Results show relatively high, but varying levels of support among European countries and social groups. People who are in a more vulnerable socio-economic position support BI more, as well as political left-wingers, egalitarianists and people who support targeting benefits at the poor. Also, a BI is more supported in countries with higher levels of material deprivation. This pattern of relations on both the individual and contextual levels seems to suggest that it is not the universal character or its unconditionality that makes a BI so attractive to a large share of the European population, but the fact that it provides (poor) people with a guaranteed minimum income. We also find that people who support other welfare reforms are more supportive of a BI. This, and the fact that younger people are more pro-BI might give hope to BI advocates who present the proposal as a social system of the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-205
JournalJournal of European Social Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Basic income
  • European Social Survey
  • public opinion
  • welfare attitudes
  • welfare state


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