Last week, Momentive and Axios released a new online poll asking people about their attitudes toward socialism and capitalism. (Momentive is the new name for the polling firm Survey Monkey). The June poll updated results from their 2019 poll, and it built on questions asked by other pollsters such as Gallup, Fox, and YouGov. Results from all polls point in the same general direction: Americans view capitalism more favorably than socialism, but young people are more ambivalent.
The new poll coincided with the surprise primary win for a socialist as mayor in Buffalo, New York. If India Walton wins in November (and there is no Republican on the ballot), she will be the second socialist mayor of a major US city, and the first in over 50 years, according to Danielle Tcholakian writing in the New Republic. The SEIU gave strong support to the 38-year-old union organizer in this low-turnout contest. Walton is a nurse, and nurses have been one of the most progressive Democratic Party support groups in recent elections. The presumptive mayor will likely be elected in November’s general election, although the four-term incumbent Byron Brown is considering a write-in bid.
Walton’s primary election is not a harbinger of a socialist wave, and outside New York City (and blue Buffalo), socialists are still an exotic species. Buffalo itself is, in the words of E.J. McMahon, writing in City Journal, “a Democratic island in politically competitive Erie County.” There are now four members of the Democratic Socialists of America in the House.
Americans are still divided about voting for a socialist at the national level. In Gallup’s 2020 question, 45% indicated they would vote for a qualified socialist for president, but 53% said they would not. It was the lowest level of support for any of the groups Gallup examined. Gallup described the label as an “electoral liability,” as Senator Bernie Sanders learned in both 2016 and 2020.
Gallup has suggested that the definition of socialism appears to have changed from government ownership of the means of production to kinder, more generous progressive ideas about expanding the federal government’s writ. That is, no doubt, one reason for its current appeal.
In the Axios/Momentive poll, 41% said they had a positive reaction to the word socialism and 52% had a negative one. Fifty-one percent of the youngest age groups (ages 18–34) had a positive view. All recent polls we’ve seen show younger Americans are more likely than older ones to warm to the idea of socialism. In Economist/Victims of Communism polls over the past five years, younger people have expressed greater willingness to vote for a socialist candidate than did older ones. We have no major polling trends on socialism that begin before Gallup and Fox began asking about it regularly in 2009 so we can’t know whether young people have always been more receptive. We also can’t tell from current polls whether their interest will last.MORE FOR YOUSpeaker Nancy Pelosi Dished Out $368.6 Million In Earmarks To 23 Newly Elected Republican FreshmanChicago’s Civil Unrest And Pandemic Cost Taxpayers $630M In Extra Pay For Police And FireEB-5 Immigration News – Will The Program Be Resuscitated?
What is worth further examination in this new poll and other polls are shifting views of capitalism. Capitalism is still viewed more positively than socialism in all of them. In the Axios/Momentive poll, 57% said they had a positive reaction to the term capitalism, while 36% had a negative reaction — not significantly different from their 2019 poll. Young people were split, 49% positive to 46% negative. The poll also showed some movement among younger Republicans away from capitalism, but I’d like to see more polls to know if that is real.
Recent polling show support for more progressive policies in many areas today, especially among the young. But when asked, as Fox has done nine times since 2010 whether it would be a good thing or a bad thing for the US to move away from capitalism and toward socialism, majorities nationally said it would be a bad thing. In three questions asked from 2010 to 2016, more than six in 10 gave that response. But in their 2018 and 2019 questions, only slightly more than half did. Young people were more than twice as likely as those over age 45 to say it would be a good thing in 2018 (52% and 24%, respectively). A possible contra indicator comes from a May Fox News poll that shows 42% of those under age 45 viewed socialism as a major threat to the stability of the US and 27% a minor one.
Gallup tells us that socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas never garnered more than 2% of the vote in his presidential runs. Bernie Sanders never made it that far. Voters’ rejection of socialist candidates may tell us more than the polls.
Department of International Relations and European Studies https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-international-relations-and-european-studies/