Jun 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

America's continued move toward socialism

Illustration of Karl Marx wearing a pair of American flag sunglasses and t-shirt
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Just half of younger Americans now hold a positive view of capitalism — and socialism's appeal in the U.S. continues to grow, driven by Black Americans and women, according to a new Axios/Momentive poll.

Why it matters: The pandemic has caused millions of Americans — including many younger Republicans — to re-evaluate their political and economic worldview. That's likely because of two factors: a renewed focus on deep societal inequalities and the tangible upsides of unprecedented levels of government intervention.

  • "The pandemic is sure to have lasting impact for decades to come," said Jon Cohen, the chief research officer for Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey).

The intrigue: Shifts are happening on the right as well as the left, at least among those under 35.

  • Just 66% of Republicans and GOP-leaners ages 18-34 have a positive view of capitalism, down from 81% in January 2019, when we first polled on these questions.
  • 56% of younger Republicans say the government should pursue policies that reduce the wealth gap, up from just 40% two years ago.

By the numbers: In 2019, 58% of Americans ages 18-34 reacted positively to the word capitalism. That's plunged to 49% today.

  • Back then, 39% of all U.S. adults viewed socialism positively. That has since ticked up to 41%.
  • Socialism has positive connotations for 60% of Black Americans, 45% of American women and 33% of non-white Republicans. Those numbers have grown over the past two years from 53%, 41% and 27%, respectively.
  • Only 48% of American women view capitalism in a positive light, down from 51% two years ago.
  • Today, 18-34 year-olds are almost evenly split between those who view capitalism positively and those who view it negatively (49% vs. 46%). Two years ago, that margin was a gaping 20 points (58% vs. 38%).

The bottom line: Politicians looking to attack opponents to their left can no longer use the word "socialist" as an all-purpose pejorative. Increasingly, it's worn as a badge of pride.

Methodology: The Momentive online poll was conducted June 11-15 among 2,309 adults ages 18 and older in the United States. The modeled error estimate is +/- 3.0  percentage points.

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