Democrats and Young People Prefer Socialism to Capitalism, Poll Finds

Republicans, on the other hand, tend to be pro-capitalism and anti-socialism.


Alex Edelman/CNP/AdMEdia/Newscom JONATHAN BACHMAN/REUTERS/Newscom

Americans increasingly view capitalism in a bad light, to the point where more Democrats and young people seem to favor socialism, according to a new poll.

A Gallup poll released today reveals that just 47 percent of Democratic and Democrat-leaning respondents have a positive view of capitalism, while 57 percent have a positive view of socialism. The socialism figure remained largely unchanged from 2016, when Gallup last conducted the poll. But the capitalism figure represents a 9-point shift from two years ago, when 56 percent of Democrats said they viewed capitalism favorably.

Similarly, 45 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 have a positive view of capitalism, compared to 51 percent who said the same about socialism. In 2010, when Gallup first started conducting the survey, 68 percent of people in that age group viewed capitalism favorably, meaning there's been a 23-point shift in just eight years. Though young peoples' views on socialism have fluctuated somewhat in that timespan, 51 percent said they viewed socialism favorably in 2010, an identical figure to 2018.

Not surprisingly, Republicans tend to be pro-capitalism and anti-socialism. Seventy-one percent of Republican or Republican-leaning respondents have a positive view of capitalism, compared to 16 percent who feel the same way about socialism.

Overall, 56 percent of respondents view capitalism favorably, down from 60 percent in 2016. On the other hand, 37 percent have a positive view of socialism, compared to 35 percent two years ago.

It's worth noting that in questioning respondents, Gallup did not "not define 'socialism' or 'capitalism.'" Instead, it simply asked "respondents whether their opinion of each is positive or negative."

Still, it's worth asking: Why are Americans responding positively to socialism? According to Gallup, President Donald Trump might be one reason:

It's possible that the drop in Democrats' positive views of capitalism is related to Donald Trump's presidency. Trump is an enthusiastic capitalist, and his administration's efforts to roll back regulations on business and industry, as well as the tax cut law that is advantageous to businesses and corporations, may have caused Democrats to view the entire capitalist enterprise with less positive eyes.

Plus, democratic socialists like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.)—a 2016 candidate for president who many think may try again in 2020—and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—who took down the powerful Rep. Joe Crowley (D–N.Y.) in a June congressional primary—have made socialism mainstream.

At the same time, it doesn't look like Democrats are ready to fully embrace socialism. As Reason's Christian Britschgi reported last week, a string of populist, left-wing primary candidates lost big in their primaries against more moderate and incumbent contenders.

Also last week, Democratic Maryland gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous, who's been endorsed by Sanders, had a pointed response when a reporter asked if he's a socialist. "Are you fucking kidding me?" Jealous responded.

Socialism may be on the rise, but at least for now, Americans don't appear ready to go all-in.