The News: According to a new Gallup survey, a majority of Democrats have a more positive image of socialism than of capitalism.
The Background: Since 2010 Gallup has asked Democrats and Republicans whether they have a positive or negative image of small business, entrepreneurs, free enterprise, capitalism, big business, the federal government, and socialism.
Since 2010, a majority of Democrats have expressed a positive image of socialism. But this is the first year that less than a majority (47 percent) has a positive image of capitalism.
Until this year, the gap between a positive view of capitalism and a positive view of socialism has stayed within two percentage points (2010: 53/53; 2012: 55/53; 2014: 56/58; 2018: 47/57). In contrast, Republicans have consistently preferred capitalism by a margin of 50 percentage points (2010: 72/17; 2012: 72/23; 2016: 68/13; 2018: 71/16).
Older Americans have been consistently more positive about capitalism than socialism. For those 50 and older, twice as many currently have a positive view of capitalism as of socialism. The opposite it true of younger Americans. Those aged 18 to 29 are as positive about socialism (51 percent) as they are about capitalism (45 percent). According to Gallup, this represents a 12-point decline in young adults’ positive views of capitalism in just the past two years and a marked shift since 2010, when 68 percent viewed it positively.
The Principle: #31 — Socialism, as historically defined and practiced, is incompatible with Christian anthropology and impedes human flourishing. (For a list of the principles and links to relevant articles, see this post.)
The Analysis: There are numerous factors that have contributed to the rise in popularity of socialism. But one of the most overlooked is the role of conservative rhetoric.
For most Christian conservatives who were adults prior to the end of the Cold War in 1991, the term socialist carries obvious connotations of atheism and totalitarianism. We associate the term with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Democratic Socialist Party of communist China.
But for the younger generation the connotation of socialism are very different. The oldest Millenials were only in third grade when the Berlin Wall fell, but they were out of college by the time of the Great Recession. For them, socialism is associated more with Norway than with Venezuela and capitalism is associated with their pessimistic perspective on the economy.
When they hear conservatives claim “Obamacare is socialism” it doesn’t cause them to like Obamacare less, it makes them like socialism more. Their reasoning goes something like this: “I like A, and if A is like B, I should like B too.”
Expecting people to change their minds about a policy simply because we claim is it “socialism” no longer works (and hasn’t been all that effective since the New Deal era). If we’re going to persuade young people of the dangers of socialism we need to attempt to be persuasive. It’s time we abandon our lazy use of “argument by pejorative label” and start explaining why socialism impedes human flourishing.