Two-thirds of college Democrats support a universal basic income such as that proposed by presidential candidate Andrew Yang, which would give $1,000 a month to every American over the age of 18, according to a new College Pulse survey of 2,000 students.
A universal basic income is not as popular among Republican students, though, as only 18 percent responded that they’d back it.
Altogether, 53 percent of college students said they supported a universal basic income, according to the survey.
The survey also found that there were some stark racial divides on the idea, as only 47 percent of white students said they supported a universal basic income, compared to 62 percent of non-white students.
Of the students who rejected the idea, 34 percent said they oppose it because “people should work for their money,” 30 percent said it’s because the program “would cost too much,” and 8 percent said “people would be irresponsible with the money.”
“Students’ reasons for opposing a universal basic income also differ along political lines,” according to a College Pulse summary of its survey. “While half (51 percent) of Republicans who oppose the plan say people should work for their money, just 12 percent of Democrats agree. Democrats are more likely to say they oppose the plan because it would cost too much (35 percent).”
If a universal basic income becomes a reality, students would spend the bulk of their $1,000 monthly stipend in a variety of ways, according to the survey. Thirty-six percent said they would either save it or invest it, 22 percent said it would go towards paying off tuition or loans, 16 percent said it would go towards rent, 6 percent said they would spend it on car or bike payments, and 6 percent said most of it would go towards food.
When asked if they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who is a strong supporter of a universal basic income, 31 percent said “yes,” 33 percent said “no” and 36 percent said it wouldn’t make a difference to their vote.
Party affiliation did make a difference, though.
“Democratic students are far less likely than Republican students to say support for a universal basic income would make them less likely to vote for a presidential candidate (17 percent vs. 75 percent),” according to the College Pulse summary. “An overwhelming majority (84 percent) of Democrats say they would either be more likely to vote for such a candidate or it would not make any difference.”
Students are not confident, however, that a universal basic income will ever happen in the United States, as 83 percent said it is not likely. Even those who support it are not optimistic. Two-thirds of them agreed that it’s not likely, showing students largely consider a universal basic income to be a bit of a pipe dream.
Perhaps they’re aware that for a universal basic income to become a reality, their parents and grandparents need some serious convincing. A November Hill-HarrisX survey found that only 21 percent of voters over the age of 65 and 38 percent of voters between the ages of 50 and 64 supported a federal universal basic income program.
Yang and his supporters, however, believe a universal basic income is vital to our future, as American companies are increasingly replacing workers with automation.
A passage on Yang’s website states: “In the next 12 years, one out of three American workers is at risk of losing their jobs to new technologies — and unlike with previous waves of automation, this time new jobs will not appear quickly enough in large enough numbers to make up for it. To avoid an unprecedented crisis, we’re going to have to find a new solution, unlike anything we’ve done before. It all begins with the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income for all American adults, no strings attached – a foundation on which a stable, prosperous, and just society can be built.”
As for paying for a universal basic income, Yang proposes consolidating some welfare programs and implementing a “value-added tax” (VAT) of 10 percent, among other things. The VAT would be applied on the production of goods and/or services that a business produces. For support, Yang points to the 160 of 193 countries in the world, including all of Europe and Canada, that already have a VAT. He believes that if the United States implements a VAT at just half of the European level, it could generate $800 billion a year in revenue.
A universal basic income is undoubtedly one of the most interesting ideas to emerge in the 2020 presidential race, but only 8 percent of students said it should be lawmakers’ top priority.
Fifty-six percent of college Democrats said that universal health care should be prioritized and 20 percent said that lawmakers should make implementing stricter environmental laws their number one priority.
“This reflects Bernie Sanders’ and (Elizabeth) Warren’s popularity among college students, as their presidential campaigns prioritize Medicare For All and other ways to strengthen the social safety net,” according to the College Pulse summary.
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Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.