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17th September, 2020

Webinar: The pandemic and policy preferences: Doing social research in real time

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Event Details

17th September, 2020
18:00 - 19:15

My colleagues and I had been researching policy preferences, and the case for a Universal Basic Income (UBI), when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. We took advantage of events unfolding in real time to try to understand how policy preferences and views could change as a major global event – the pandemic – unfolded. I will present two studies carried out in April and May 2020 in UK and US samples.

In study 1, we found that people expressed much stronger support for a UBI policy for the times of the pandemic and its aftermath than for normal times. This was largely explained by the increased importance they attached to a system that is simple and efficient to administer, and that reduces stress and anxiety in society. In study 2, we pitted UBI against an equally-generous but targeted social transfer system. We found that, for pandemic times, support shifted towards UBI. This was partially explained by a number of perceived advantages of UBI, such as simplicity of administration and suitability for a changing world.

Our results illustrate how a rapidly changing social and economic situation can bring about marked shifts in policy preferences, through changes in citizens’ perceptions of what is currently important. I will relate the findings to underlying questions about what determines how good or bad an idea a policy proposal seems to be, and why attitudes might change.

Daniel Nettle is Professor of Behavioural Science at Newcastle University. He carries out research at the intersection of social, psychological and health questions. Visit his website at:

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