Shifts in attitudes on socialism on both the right and the left may have made socialism’s rise in America inevitable. And many analysts believe that the pandemic accelerated the process.
A new Axios/Momentive poll compared to previous polls taken in 2019-20 shows a slow but inexorable tilt toward socialism. It’s inexorable because the changing attitudes are happening in young conservatives as well as liberals.
We’ve known that Democrats of all ages have titled toward socialism in the last decade to the point that Democrats see socialism more positively than capitalism. And there’s been a precipitous decline since 2019 in the number of younger Republicans who see capitalism in a positive light.
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.
There are some obvious points to be made, the first being that many of those young people seeing socialism in a positive light may be persuadable once it becomes clear who has to pay for all these grandiose spending schemes of the Democrats. And it won’t be the rich.
And when they see that Democratic policies are actually exacerbating the “wealth gap,” they may have second thoughts about supporting socialism.
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%).
It would help if a proper definition of the two terms came into fashion. Indeed, there have been many socialist ideas adopted by the government and accepted by most Americans over the years, and even Democrats aren’t dumb enough to slay the goose laying the golden eggs. The engine of democracy and equality is and always has been capitalism.
The real question is how much socialism and how much capitalism should there be in America. Obviously, Republicans want more capitalism and Democrats want less. But the issue isn’t socialism or capitalism. The issue is freedom and liberty.
We’re not going to roll the clock back and remove the government from the economy — not with tens of millions of Americans totally dependent on the government for their lives. But we don’t have to sit by and watch our wealth drained from our communities by schemes that help few people and only empower politicians.
Related: Socialism Never Works
Capitalism has been unfairly demonized by those who will enrich themselves in a more socialist economy. It starts with the young, and educating American youth about the real differences between freedom and tyranny is a good place to start.