Declining Faith in Both Capitalism and Socialism Leaves … What?
Americans don’t much like each-other and many are willing to fight each other over their differences. But what do the opposing factions believe in? When it comes to economic systems and whether production and consumption should be dictated from above or guided by free exchange, a growing number of Americans don’t seem to believe in much at all. Both capitalism and socialism are losing support, especially among Democrats.
“Today, 36 percent of U.S. adults say they view socialism somewhat (30 percent) or very (6 percent) positively, down from 42 percent who viewed the term positively in May 2019,” Pew reports. “And while a majority of the public (57 percent) continues to view capitalism favorably, that is 8 percentage points lower than in 2019 (65 percent).”
Among Republicans, support for capitalism declined from 78 percent to 74 percent, and for socialism from a rock-bottom 15 percent to a slightly rock-bottomier 14 percent. With Democrats, capitalism became a minority taste, dropping from 55 percent support to 46 percent, while socialism’s favorable standing eroded from 65 percent to 57 percent.
“Much of the decline in positive views of both socialism and capitalism has been driven by shifts in views among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents,” acknowledges Pew. That still leaves the GOP as a market-oriented political party (despite the oddball 14 percent lobby for adding Lenin to the partisan pantheon alongside Lincoln and Reagan). The Democrats have become a lukewarm socialist party, to judge by the sentiments of supporters.
“Americans see capitalism as giving people more opportunity and more freedom than socialism, while they see socialism as more likely to meet people’s basic needs, though these perceptions differ significantly by party,” Pew notes in partial explanation of the disagreement. OK, but that’s aspirational; do Americans really understand the differences between the economic systems?
Fortunately, in 2019 Pew asked respondents more detailed questions about their opinions of capitalism and socialism. Unfortunately, that poll was also terrible about defining terms, but at least it allowed people to describe their impressions of the systems in their own words.
Supporters of free markets “mention that capitalism has advanced America’s economic strength, that America was established under the idea of capitalism, or that capitalism is essential to maintaining freedom in the country,” the 2019 report offered. “Critics of socialism point to Venezuela as an example of a country where it has failed. People with positive views of socialism cite diffe
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