Economic Growth

What do people really think about capitalism?

José Santiago
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In a recent survey by YouGov, 10 questions on population were asked to people in seven different nations: Britain, the United States, Germany, Brazil, India, Indonesia and Thailand. The polls were carried out in early September 2015, shortly after the stock market crash in China (also known as the Great Fall of China); therefore the global sentiment during that period may have influenced results.

So how do people feel about capitalism? The findings of the study were as follows:

1. Big businesses cheat but businesspeople are important for society

(-) Most people surveyed believed that the world’s biggest businesses have met success by cheating and polluting. Barely 10% of participants in all the countries surveyed think big businesses are clean. The US displayed the most negativity toward capitalism, with respondents showing great pessimism for the future and deep distrust towards big business.

(+) On a positive note, most respondents believed that inventors and businesspeople are as important to society as doctors, teachers and charity workers, and that what is good for business is also good for society.


Source: YouGov for the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity for All report

2. The poor get poorer, but free enterprise is better than government at lifting people out of poverty

(-) In all seven countries the respondents agreed that the poor get poorer while the rich get richer in capitalist nations, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

(+) Despite the general belief that capitalism keeps the poor poor, people in all seven countries still felt the free enterprise system was a better option than government for lifting people out of poverty.


Source: YouGov for the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity for All report

3. The developed world believes the future has little to offer the next generation, but the emerging world is more hopeful

(-) People in Britain, Germany, the US and Brazil don’t foresee a future where their children are healthier, safer and richer.

(+) Indonesia, India and Thailand are more optimistic about the future than the rest of the nations – 50% of respondents India, one of the fastest-growing emerging nations, expect life for the next generation to be improved.


Source: YouGov for the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity for All report

4. Other revealing  findings

The majority of people in the US, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand are in favour of protectionist measures to support their manufacturing industries from low-cost imports.


Source: YouGov for the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity for All report

Most countries, except Germany, believed that government should invest more on infrastructure by cutting down spending on welfare benefits.

Most of the respondents believed that poverty is a bigger problem than inequality and reducing unemployment is a larger problem than reducing the super-rich.

There was general agreement that the 2008 financial crash would have been worse without the bank bailouts.


Source: YouGov for the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity for All report

Across all nations: an overwhelming majority believed that family life and a strong community are essential for a thriving economy.


Source: YouGov for the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity for All report

Have you read?
Does capitalism cause poverty?
Is 2015 the year of inclusive capitalism?
How is wealth distributed around the world?

Author: José Santiago, Digital Content Specialist, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum

Image: General view of buildings in Manhattan and the Hudson River are seen from the Empire State Building in New York REUTERS/Shahida Ariff Patail

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