As the 2016 presidential election proved so conclusively, polling can only tell us so much. Yet there’s still no better way to take the pulse of the American public than to conduct a good poll. Since 2010, Gallup has been asking Americans how they feel about some basic elements of politics, and the results are starting to shift.
The poll asks simple questions. As such, the answers may be seen as somewhat simple. The most surprising finding is the widening gap between the positive views of socialism and capitalism.
Those who identify as Democrats, or those that lean that way, have, of late, embraced more of socialism’s abstractions. The positive view percentage actually went down by a point in the latest poll. But the positive view of capitalism went down by 9 points.
On the Republican side, the positive view of socialism climbed by three points, from 13 in 2016 to 16. The positive view of capitalism is climbing by the same margin.
So what do these new findings mean? Slate has published their interpretation.
“The good: For the first time since Gallup began polling the issue in 2010, more Democrats (and Democratic-leaning independents) now say they have a more positive image of socialism than they do of capitalism. The party’s ideological balance seems to be tipping toward the Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [above] camp of new-wave leftists.”
Slate breaks the numbers down even more. Perhaps, they argue, the negative view of socialism has more to do with age than political affiliation.
“The dynamic is not much different if you just look at young voters. Among all 18-to-29-year-olds (not just Democrats), 51 percent say they have positive views of socialism, the same as in 2010. Capitalism, on the other hand, seems to be quickly losing favor: 45 percent have a positive image of the concept, down from 57 percent in 2016 and 68 percent in 2010. Even among the youngs, socialism’s appeal doesn’t seem to be growing so much as capitalism’s is tanking. (I imagine that if you looked at young Democrats alone, the pattern might be a bit different; unfortunately Gallup doesn’t break them out.)”
Slate brings up an important point, though, about definitions. Some Democrats think of public library’s, public schools, and municipal services.
Others associate socialism with an increase in social services and higher taxes. Others still, especially those who aren’t in this “young” group, tie socialism to communism–another historically problematic ideology opposed to capitalism.