The precipitous fall among younger people is easy enough to explain. Next month marks the 10-year anniversary of the knee-knocking height of the 2008 financial crisis. The government bailed out failing banks that September, then in 2009 passed more than $800 billion in stimulus spending. But homeowners facing foreclosure were mostly hung out to dry and the Great Recession settled in from there. For a certain cohort of Americans, the Wall Street meltdown and its legacy — the personal debt, the stagnant wages, etc. — is their foundational political memory and only lived experience.
Meanwhile, support for socialism, no matter how you slice and dice the demographics, has been mostly static over the past eight years. Even with the 18-to-29-year-old group, which went from 51% in 2010 to, yup, 51% in 2018.
But there’s more to the story. Socialism has for a century at least been a loaded term, introduced typically as a kind of slur when applied to American politics. Those taboos are fading, but even now there is heated debate over whether Democratic candidates who identify as socialists (or democratic socialists or social democrats, etc.) risk alienating voters outside certain deep blue regions.