When asked to explain their understanding of the term “socialism,” 17% of Americans define it as government ownership of the means of production, half the number who defined it this way in 1949 when Gallup first asked about Americans’ views of the term. Americans today are most likely to define socialism as connoting equality for everyone, while others understand the term as meaning the provision of benefits and social services, a modified form of communism, or a conception of socialism as people being social and getting along with one another. About a quarter of Americans were not able to give an answer.

2018 1949 Sep 4-12 Sep 3-8 % % Equality – equal standing for everybody, all equal in rights, equal in distribution 23 12 Government ownership or control, government ownership of utilities, everything controlled by the government, state control of business 17 34 Benefits and services – social services free, medicine for all 10 2 Modified communism, communism 6 6 Talking to people, being social, social media, getting along with people 6 — Restriction of freedom – people told what to do 3 1 Liberal government – reform government, liberalism in politics 2 1 Cooperative plan 1 1 Derogatory opinions (non-specific) 6 2 Other 8 7 No opinion 23 36 GALLUP