It’s not our imagination, Gallup tells us, that Democrats seem more enamored of outright socialism than of capitalism. Thanks to the ongoing efforts of “Democratic socialists” like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, socialism scores ten points higher among self-identified Democrats than capitalism. Thus far, however, it remains a phenomenon of the Left:
For the first time in Gallup’s measurement over the past decade, Democrats have a more positive image of socialism than they do of capitalism. Attitudes toward socialism among Democrats have not changed materially since 2010, with 57% today having a positive view. The major change among Democrats has been a less upbeat attitude toward capitalism, dropping to 47% positive this year — lower than in any of the three previous measures. Republicans remain much more positive about capitalism than about socialism, with little sustained change in their views of either since 2010.
The biggest differentiator, apart from partisan identification, is age. Younger voters are far more enamored of socialism than their elders:
Americans aged 18 to 29 are as positive about socialism (51%) as they are about capitalism (45%). This represents a 12-point decline in young adults’ positive views of capitalism in just the past two years and a marked shift since 2010, when 68% viewed it positively. Meanwhile, young people’s views of socialism have fluctuated somewhat from year to year, but the 51% with a positive view today is the same as in 2010.
Older Americans have been consistently more positive about capitalism than socialism. For those 50 and older, twice as many currently have a positive view of capitalism as of socialism.
Perhaps that’s because older Americans have had ringside seats to socialism in practice rather than just theory. Socialism became the dominant political system for a large part of the 20th century, at least in terms of populations living under it, and its wreckage was apparent long before the collapse of the Soviet Union — at least to those operating honestly. Food lines (among many other signs) highlighted the shortage-based nature of those systems and the top-down rationing that benefited only those in power. Capitalist systems, on the other hand, experienced giant leaps in standards of living and in abundance during the same period, creating a dissonance that finally overrode and destroyed the Iron Curtain.
That’s not to excuse this generation, however. They have also had a ringside seat to socialism’s inevitable outcomes in Venezuela, which before Hugo Chavez enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in South America. It has now collapsed to the point where pirates have reappeared off their shores, desperate for sustenance and willing to risk death to find it.
The good news, however, is that Americans overall aren’t buying socialism, not of the pure nor the “democratic” variety. Over the past decade, sympathy for socialism has barely budged; today’s 37% favorable rating falls within the very narrow 36-39% rating seen by Gallup since they began asking the question. The 56% overall rating for capitalism is the lowest in that range, but it’s only barely off the peak 61% in 2010 and 2012. The relative sympathy for both has been all but static. Furthermore, when asked in conjunction with other models, socialism still scores the lowest — by far:
If the Bernie-Alexandria “Democratic Socialist” train derails Democratic hopes in this midterm, this might be the reason why. That, and Ocasio-Cortez’ utter inability to provide any coherent explanation of the costs and benefits of Democratic Socialism.