Even amid a booming economy, wage growth has been sluggish. At the same time, the list of jobs robots are able to fill is growing more impressive (and perhaps worrisome). The Northeastern University/Gallup survey showed that three-quarters of Americans believe machines will take away more jobs than they'll generate.
"We don't need to threaten people with homelessness and poverty to get them to work," Widerquist said. "It's capitalism where income doesn't start at zero."
Still, the survey found that 52 percent of Americans do not support a basic income.
The chances of a universal basic income coming to pass are highly unlikely, said Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. By his estimates, a program providing everyone with $10,000 annually could cost more $3 trillion a year.
That big of a bill is more likely to increase poverty than reduce it, he said, because other programs like Social Security and Medicare would need to be cut.
"To me, universal basic income is a beautiful, pie-in-the-sky idea," Greenstein told CNBC. "But I don't ever see it getting beyond pie-in-the sky."
The idea of universal basic income is more popular with certain groups.
For example, 65 percent of Democrats want to see a universal basic income and 54 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 35 do. In comparison, just 28 percent of Republicans support universal basic income.
"Anything that sounds like welfare gets a much more negative reaction from Republicans," said Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup.
Newport said he found it interesting that the public doesn't necessarily wants the government to pay for universal basic income. Instead, 80 percent of supporters say that the companies that benefit from artificial intelligence should pay the higher taxes to fund a basic income.
Standing said Americans might be receiving those checks sooner than previously thought, thanks to the realization of what could follow if they never came.
"You can't have a free market economy if people are constantly insecure," Standing said. "You can't expect them to be rational."
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated the annual payment from the Alaska Permanent Fund.
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