A collection of materials on framing, messaging, and public opinion

Messaging Guaranteed Income


There is a growing urgency, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, to reimagine the social safety net. Against this backdrop, there has been a growing interest in cash-based assistance, including guaranteed income, and universal basic income. There are many reasons for the turn towards cash, including the view that a universal basic income policy has broad-base support among constituents in an otherwise polarized environment. 

In this special project, JFI researchers have taken a broad range of approaches to the question of guaranteed income in the public eye. In a U.S. nationally representative survey launched several months into the Covid-19 pandemic, we assess how cross-cutting socio-demographic and -economic characteristics affect support for basic income policies, in particular among those facing increasing economic precarity, and how the specifics of the policy—i.e. financing, eligibility and targeting—are viewed by partisan groups. We’ve reviewed the literature on framing and messaging guaranteed income, and hosted international scholars on building support for guaranteed income across political and cultural contexts.

Artwork: Man Giving Speech, ca. 1800. Smithsonian.

Part 1

Opportunity in Crisis: New Polling on Public Opinion Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

July 2021. In the early months of the pandemic, JFI researchers fielded a nationally representative survey investigating how the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 had begun to influence Americans’ attitudes towards government policy. Was this extraordinary crisis opening space for novel policy ideas to take root? Had the ambitious federal response shifted long-held views on government intervention in the economy? On cash relief? 

Using the Qualtrics platform, our researchers collected data from 2,200 respondents in 825 U.S. Counties between May 5th and June 9th, 2020. Three research briefs, the first of which was published July 16, 2021, will outline some of our most timely results.

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Part 2

How to Frame Guaranteed Income Policy: A Review of Literature

Building public support for guaranteed income requires both rigorous research and effective messaging. A preponderance of research and pilots have demonstrated the positive impacts of guaranteed income, but policy proposals require a careful attention to framing to garner widespread political will for sustained cash programs.

This review of literature, published in May 2021, covers a range of important guaranteed income messaging questions: the impacts of varying names and parameters for recurring cash policies, the impacts of framing those cash policies for both public support and recipients’ outcomes, demographics of public support for guaranteed income according to polling, and context and research around negative perceptions of public benefits.

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Part 3

International Perspectives in Guaranteed Income Messaging

JFI’s International Perspectives in Guaranteed Income Messaging event, hosted with the Basic Income Research and Action Lab, featured guaranteed income researchers and advocates from around the world to discuss lessons in messaging and framing to build support for guaranteed income or UBI in varying political and cultural contexts. Speakers include Anne Price, President of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development; Barb Jacobsen, Coordinator of Basic Income UK; Tatiana Roque, Professor at UFRJ and Brazilian Basic Income Network member; and Catherine Thomas, Stanford University PhD Candidate and Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow.

View the event on YouTube here.

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Part 4

Research Session: Perceptions of Guaranteed Income - New Polling

A look at early results from recent polling research on guaranteed income perceptions and messaging, featuring work from Leah Hamilton, Associate Professor of Social Work at Appalachian State University, and JFI Senior Fellow; and Sara Constantino, Research Associate Scholar and Lecturer at Princeton University.

View the session on YouTube.

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