Gallup: Socialism still unpopular despite Democrats' best efforts

AP Photo/Steven Senne

This will likely come as bad news for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, AOC, and all the rest of the Democratic Socialists in Congress. Gallup Polls has released their latest periodic survey of Americans, measuring their approval of the two primary political and economic theories of social organization in the United States, capitalism and socialism. And just as we’ve seen going back as far as these surveys have been conducted, Americans are not fond of socialism and prefer capitalism by a wide margin. Capitalism once again rang up a 60% approval rating while socialism slid back down to 38 %. That represents a slight decline from the 40% support socialism mustered in 2018, tied for the highest mark the theory ever received. As the great philosopher Frank Zappa once declared, “communiism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.” The same apparently applies to socialism.

Sixty percent of U.S. adults in 2021 have a positive image of capitalism, and 38% have a positive image of socialism. These ratings have been stable over time.

These results are based on an Oct. 1-19 Gallup survey. Since 2010, Gallup has measured Americans’ basic opinions of several economic or governmental terms, including capitalism and socialism. Their views of socialism have held steady, even as Sen. Bernie Sanders and progressive Democratic politicians have pursued an expanded government role in addressing healthcare, poverty and early childhood education — policies their critics describe as moving the U.S. toward socialism. Likewise, Americans’ opinions of capitalism have not varied, even with greater discussion of income inequality in the U.S. and the concentration of U.S. wealth in a small percentage of people.

Interestingly, there were several other terms tested in this survey, and one of them tied for dead last along with socialism. That would be “the federal government,” which also rang up 38% of Americans seeing it in a positive light. But the percentage of people viewing Washington in a “negative” light was even higher than the number seeing socialism that way. (62 vs 59) Are you people inside the beltway listening? I think there might be an important hint here for you.

It does appear that some of the messaging by the Democratic Socialists is sinking in among the public, however. The percentage of Americans viewing “big business” positively fell to 46%, a six-point decrease from 2019. That decline was driven almost entirely by Republicans, among whom 56% had a positive view this year after 72% viewed big business positively two years ago. Gallup doesn’t get very granular on these questions, but if I had to take a stab in the dark and guess why Republicans’ views on big business have started to sour, it would probably be something to do with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple.

In contrast to those figures, the term “small business” was the most popular concept in this survey by a huge margin. 97% of respondents viewed small business positively, with just three percent seeing it in a negative light. And while people seem less enamored with “big business,” most still see “free enterprise” positively. (84%)

You can view the full list of questions and cross-tab data here.