What’s the key factor here? Democrats drifting left over time as Clinton’s coalition was replaced by Obama’s? Or the word “socialism” being watered down since its Cold War heyday?
The One promised us a transformational presidency. Mission accomplished.
52% of Americans have a favorable view of capitalism, while only 26% have a favorable view of socialism. Among younger Americans, however, attitudes are a lot more divided. 36% of under-30s have a positive view of socialism, while 39% have a positive view of capitalism. Among over-65s, who came of age at the height of the Cold War, only 15% look upon socialism favorably while 59% have a like capitalism.
Democrats (43%) are also much more likely than either independents (22%) or Republicans (9%) to have a favorable view of socialism. Democrats, in fact, are as likely to have a favorable view of capitalism (43%) as socialism.
The age gap suggests a heapin’ helpin’ of post-Soviet ignorance among younger adults as to what socialism in its purer forms is capable of. If you’re a twentysomething, you may know “socialism” mainly as a GOP attack line whenever Obama starts babbling about raising the minimum wage or whatever. When asked whether they consider “socialist” a compliment, an insult, or a neutral term, the general public splits 8/35/36 — i.e. a plurality sees no stigma — while Democrats split 11/17/44 — a majority sees no stigma. Interestingly, though, the numbers change when you ask how they’d feel about a presidential candidate who calls himself a “socialist”:
Blacks split 18/17/29 on whether “socialist” is a compliment, insult, or neutral term, but once you ask them about someone running for president under that banner, they — and pretty much everyone else — start getting nervous. Same goes for Democrats generally, although not quite to the same degree:
What explains the discrepancy? It may be that people take the term “socialist” more or less seriously depending upon context. A garden-variety Democrat may fancy himself a socialist, or be attacked as one by the right, for supporting the welfare state and redistribution and criticizing income inequality. If you’re a politician with national ambitions, though, and you feel obliged to distinguish yourself from other Democratic pols by carrying the stigma of “socialist” into political battle, then chances are you’re less a traditional Great Society leftist and more a committed far-left ideologue. No one with something to lose as prestigious as higher office adopts the “socialist” mantle unless they really want to be known as a socialist, signaling that they’re more of a fringe-dweller than the average liberal Democrat is. Twenty-five years after the Cold War ended, there may yet be an awareness out there that socialism is fine in theory but not something you want crawling the halls of power in the form of a true believer.
One last tidbit in lieu of an exit question, for what it’s worth: When YouGov asked people how likely they think it is that they’ll become millionaires someday, the groups with the highest percentages saying “very likely or “somewhat likely” were blacks and Hispanics at 39 and 31 percent, respectively. Just 16 percent of whites said the same. That’s not a result you would expect given that minorities on average are poorer than whites and have a longer way to go to reach millionaire status. What explains it?