Perceptions of Basic Income Among University Students

Research Report – March 23, 2023


Basic Income is a hotly debated policy proposal in Canada. The implementation of stronger income supports during the COVID-19 pandemic (ex. CERB, CESB) brought renewed attention to whether low-income Canadians should be supported via unconditional, monthly government cash transfers. Recent studies show that most Canadians support the implementation of a Basic Income; Quebec launched a limited version of the policy in 2023; and various motions have been introduced in parliament to implement a national program.


This report seeks to add to the national Basic Income debate by highlighting university students’ perceptions of the policy and the rhetorical messaging that influences support for it. Additionally, the report covers how students believe a Basic Income should be paid for, various categorizations of the perceived pros/cons of the policy and what students say the “ideal” implementation of the policy should be.


In December 2022, quantitative data was collected via a 38-question survey from 323 students across a dozen Canadian universities. In December 2022, qualitative data was collected via 8x hour-long focus groups with a total of 25 McGill University students.


  • Basic Income has net support of +45% (57% in support, 12% opposed) among university students
  • Across incomes, genders, races and background knowledge of the policy, more people support BI than oppose it
  • Support for Basic Income would not change if family taxes were “slightly raised” to pay for it
  • Students are willing to change their opinion of the policy if its potential impacts could be proven 
  • Framing BI as a “new approach” to “ineffective poverty-reduction policies” increases support for a pilot project
  • A majority of students, while eligible for payments, do not think they “deserve” money from a Basic Income


Andrei Adam

[email protected]