Democrats are more positive about socialism than capitalism, new Gallup poll says

  • Democrats view socialism more positively than capitalism, according to a new Gallup poll, and it's mostly because voters on that side of the aisle view capitalism less favorably than they did a couple years ago.
  • Forty-seven percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic now view capitalism positively, down from 56 percent in 2016. Those with a positive view of socialism remained somewhat steady at 57 percent, down a point from 58 percent two years ago.
  • The organization started asking the question in 2010, two years after the global financial crisis.
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, speaks during a health care bill news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, speaks during a health care bill news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017.

Democrats view socialism more positively than capitalism, according to a new Gallup poll, and it's mostly because voters on that side of the aisle view capitalism less favorably than they did a couple years ago.

Forty-seven percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic now view capitalism positively, down from 56 percent in 2016. Those with a positive view of socialism remained somewhat steady at 57 percent, down a point from 58 percent two years ago.

The organization started asking the question in 2010, two years after the global financial crisis.

Meanwhile, Republicans and Republican-leaning independent voters are slightly more favorable toward capitalism than they were two years ago — 71 percent say they feel positive about capitalism, up from 68 percent in 2016.

Democrats' transforming attitudes towards capitalism come in the midst of an election cycle where candidates identifying as Democratic socialists have made progress in mainstream politics. The Democratic Party, also fueled by moderates making headway in GOP-held districts, is favored to win back the majority in the House this fall.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, and Democratic-Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who in June won a New York Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Joseph Crowley, are both throwing support and money behind progressive candidates on the campaign trail this year.

Yet, despite the rising prominence of socialism in public discourse in recent years, several socialist candidates have failed to capture their party's nomination in recent primary elections. While a majority of Democrats nationwide react positively to the word "socialism," strong antipathy toward socialism among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents suggests that a socialist political agenda might not bode well in swing districts this fall.

The Gallup survey did not name specific socialist political figures nor did it define "socialism" or "capitalism" but rather asked respondents whether their opinion of each is positive or negative.

There has been little change in Americans' attitudes toward socialism at the national level. Americans' positive views of socialism have shifted only between 35 percent and 39 percent, with this year's result of 37 percent marking the average trend.

The results do, however, reveal a remarkable age gap in perception of the two systems. Just 45 percent of young Americans ages 18 to 29 view capitalism positively. In 2010, 68 percent of the voters in that group viewed it positively. Americans who are 30 and older, though, have been consistently more positive about capitalism than socialism.

Americans continue to give high marks to small business, entrepreneurs and free enterprise, although positive attitudes toward these have declined since 2016, according to Gallup. Big business, with 50 percent favorability, garnered a lower rating than small business, free enterprise, entrepreneurs and capitalism.

But big business still outperformed the federal government. Thirty-nine percent of voters said they had a positive view of the federal government — just two points higher than socialism.

The Gallup poll conducted telephone interviews from July 30, 2018, to Aug. 5, 2018, with a random sample of 1,505 adults, age 18 and older, across the United States.