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Politics

Public Split on Basic Income for Workers Replaced by Robots

Politics

Public Split on Basic Income for Workers Replaced by Robots

Public Split on Basic Income for Workers Replaced by Robots

Story Highlights

  • 48% of Americans support a universal basic income program
  • 46% of supporters would pay higher personal taxes to support it
  • 80% of supporters say companies should pay higher taxes to fund the program

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are split in their support for a hypothetical universal basic income (UBI) program that would guarantee a minimum income for workers who lose their jobs because of advances in artificial intelligence (AI). Forty-eight percent support and 52% oppose a UBI program for workers who are displaced by technology.

Americans' Support for a Universal Basic Income Program
Do you support or not support a universal basic income program as a way to help Americans who lose their jobs because of advances in artificial intelligence?
Support Do not support
% %
All Americans 48 52
Gender
Men 43 57
Women 52 48
Age
18 to 35 54 46
36 to 50 50 50
51 to 65 46 54
66+ 38 62
Education
Less than a bachelor's degree 51 49
Bachelor's degree or higher 42 58
Political party affiliation
Republican 28 72
Independent 48 52
Democrat 65 35
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY/GALLUP SURVEY, SEPT. 15-OCT. 10, 2017

These data come from a Northeastern University/Gallup survey of Americans' attitudes toward AI and its effect on their lives and work. The mail survey of 3,297 U.S. adults was conducted Sept. 15-Oct. 10, 2017. The report found 73% of Americans predicting that AI will lead to a loss of more jobs than it creates.

Under a UBI program more generally, the federal government would provide every adult below a certain income threshold with a specific amount of money each year. A UBI program is often talked about as a potential offset to the disruption likely to occur after new technology is adopted. Several high-profile business leaders, including Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg, have publicly discussed this idea. Limited test programs of the idea have occurred in Finland and Canada. A trial program is also planned for San Francisco.

Some U.S. demographic groups are more supportive of the concept than others. More than six in 10 self-described Democrats (65%), as one example, say they would support a UBI program, compared with slightly more than one in four (28%) Republicans.

Additionally, roughly half of most U.S. adult age groups express support. However, support is substantially lower -- 38% -- among Americans aged 66 and older.

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Americans' Attitudes on Funding a UBI

While the exact cost of a UBI program in the U.S. depends on the specific details, it is estimated the program could run into the trillions of dollars. U.S. adults who favor a UBI program show mixed support for the idea of financing this type of program through taxes: 46% say they would be willing to pay higher personal taxes to fund the program and 54% say they would not be.

Support Low for Higher Personal Taxes to Pay for Universal Basic Income Program
Would you be willing to pay higher taxes to fund a universal basic income program like the one described above?*
Yes No
% %
Overall 46 54
Gender
Men 49 51
Women 43 57
Age
18 to 35 52 48
36 to 50 42 58
51 to 65 40 60
66+ 49 51
Education
Less than a bachelor's degree 38 62
Bachelor's degree or higher 64 36
Political party affiliation
Republican 29 71
Independent 40 60
Democrat 55 45
* Among Americans who support a UBI program
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY/GALLUP SURVEY, SEPT. 15-OCT. 10, 2017

While support for increased personal taxes to fund a UBI program is mixed, the vast majority of supporters favor taxing the companies that benefit most from AI to fund the program. Eight in 10 supporters of a UBI program (80%) agree that these companies should pay more in taxes in support of such a policy. Support for higher taxes on these companies is at or above 74% among supporters of a UBI program in most demographic groups.

Universal Basic Income Supporters Agree Companies That Benefit Most From AI Should Pay for the Program
Companies that benefit most from advancements in artificial intelligence should pay more taxes to fund a universal basic income program.*
Agree (5, 4) Disagree (2, 1)
% %
Overall 80 9
Gender
Men 78 13
Women 82 7
Age
18 to 35 83 8
36 to 50 77 9
51 to 65 84 7
66+ 77 11
Education
Less than a bachelor's degree 80 9
Bachelor's degree or higher 80 10
Political party affiliation
Republican 74 14
Independent 75 13
Democrat 88 5
* Among Americans who support a UBI program
NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY/GALLUP SURVEY, SEPT. 15-OCT. 10, 2017

Implications

Estimates indicate that as many as 47% of all U.S. jobs are at risk of replacement by AI, and most Americans agree that the adoption of this new technology will create fewer jobs than it makes obsolete. Additionally, half of American workers (51%) say they would need additional education or training to find an equivalent job if they lost their current position to new technology, though fewer -- 43% -- are confident they could secure this education. This potentially sets up a situation in which adopting AI will result in significant unemployment and disruption.

Americans are mixed on their support for the idea of a universal basic income program, which has been advanced by some high-profile proponents, including Elon Musk, to help ease the pain of the AI revolution. Americans' mixed levels of support for a UBI program for those who lose their jobs to AI may be related to the finding that most don't personally fear losing their jobs to the new technology.

Read the full Northeastern University/Gallup report "Optimism and Anxiety: Views on the Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Higher Education's Response."

Survey Methods

Results for the Northeastern University-Gallup survey on artificial intelligence are based on surveys conducted by mail from Sept. 15-Oct. 10, 2017, with a random sample of 3,297 U.S. adults aged 18 and older. The survey package included an English and a Spanish survey to provide respondents with the flexibility to reply in their preferred language.

Gallup selected the sample of U.S. residents using address-based sampling (ABS), a sampling technique used to select households from a list of all households on file with the United States Postal Service (USPS). Gallup chooses respondents within the household at random based on which household member would have the next birthday. Gallup used a series of postcard reminders to encourage participation in the survey.

Gallup weighted the data to match national demographics of gender, age, education, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education and region.

All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

For results based on the total sample of 3,297 U.S. adults, the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Gallup

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Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/228194/public-split-basic-income-workers-replaced-robots.aspx
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