New Poll Results Confirm Widespread Support for Alaska's Permanent Fund Dividend

June 28, 2017

JUNEAU -- Alaskans across the state believe that the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) – the nation's largest unconditional cash transfer program – contributes positively to their overall quality of life, according to results released today from the most comprehensive survey on the PFD in decades. Fully 79 percent of Alaskans say the PFD is an important source of income for people in their community, with 85 percent saying it helps the Alaskan economy and 81 percent saying it improves their quality of life. 

"The Permanent Fund Dividend has long stood as a potential model for how other universal basic income programs could work in the United States," said Chris Hughes, Cofounder of the Economic Security Project. "At a time when more Americans than ever before are feeling strapped and unsure about how they can succeed in our economy, this research should come as encouraging news that unconditional cash can – and should – be a vehicle to create more economic security for all of us."
Much like other Americans, Alaskans feel the crunch of economic insecurity: Only 52 percent of Alaska voters say they are living comfortably, and they broadly agree that the changing nature of work and lack of economic insecurity contribute to that reality. Other key findings include:
  • People use their payments productively: 72% of Alaskans report saving their PFD for essentials, emergencies, paying off debt, or for future activities like retirement or education. When they spend their PFD, it is heavily devoted to recurring expenses, like paying off bills. Fully 81% say that the PFDs helped improve their quality of life (versus just 1% harmed)

  • Voters endorse the value of universality: 90% favor the PFDs going to everyone who is a full-time resident of Alaska, and 84% believe as owners of the Alaska Permanent Fund, Alaskan residents are entitled to an equal share

  • There's no change in work output: Contrary to belief that cash transfers disincentivize work, just 1 percent of Alaskans believe that the PFD makes them work less

  • Alaskans are willing to pay for it: 64 percent of respondents said they would rather raise state income taxes than end the PFD to fund government services, up from 29 percent in 1984 


“Much of the debate around universal basic income has focused on how people would use the payments, whether it would reduce incentives to work, and how society would bear the cost of paying for it,” said Mike Kubzansky, partner at  Omidyar Network, one of the funders of the Economic Security Project. “We still need more evidence to better inform the debate, but a lot can be learned from a real-world example of a long-running basic income program such as the Permanent Fund in Alaska."

Additionally, the research found that the PFD made the biggest impact on those affected by economic disruption – 50 percent of those saying the changing economy has affected them a lot indicate the PFD makes a major difference in their life, versus only 28 percent for those who have felt little or no impact from the changing economy – making similar basic income programs even more compelling as this disruption is expected to grow in the near future. The study also found no major differences across the political spectrum or across income levels of respondents.
The telephone survey was conducted by Harstad Strategic Research, commissioned by the Economic Security Project, and funded by the Omidyar Network, and interviewed a cross-section of 1,004 registered Alaska voters between March 22 and April 2, 2017.
Nationwide, there is a growing discussion around how policies involving cash transfers can expand economic opportunity for individuals in every community. In May, Hawaii became the first state in the country to pass legislation to explore a statewide universal basic income program and establish a basic economic security working group. The resolution was sponsored by Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee and was covered by a range of news outlets, including VoxMother Jones, and Business Insider.
For additional findings from the study and to access the full dataset, visit the Economic Security Project.
Issuing Organization: Economic Security Project 
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