Are Americans more accepting of socialism? Once a political slur, socialism has come back into the public consciousness, bolstered by the appeal of popular politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who speak openly of their support for Democratic Socialism. An April 2019 poll from Gallup provided more evidence of socialism's growing base, showing that 43% of Americans now describe socialism as a "good thing".
The answer came in response to "Would some form of socialism be a good thing or a bad thing for the country as a whole?"
Compare the current support of over 40% of the population for some form of socialism to 25% who supported it in a 1942 Roper/Fortune survey – one of the oldest opinion measures we have on subject.
The amount of people who don't like socialism has also grown. 51% of the polled thought socialism was a "bad thing" while only 40% thought so in 1942. The big difference also is that in the 1940's poll 34% had "no opinion" while in 2019, only 6% replied that way. Clearly, fewer are on the fence about how they feel and stances have hardened.
Why has the opinion of socialism changed through the years? For one, the Red Scare of the 40s and 50s is no longer there. Instead, Scandinavian countries are often brought up as examples of modern socialist societies.
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Previous opinion polls also showed that more Americans (23%) now identify socialism with social equality rather than with government control over the means of production (17%). For comparison, in 1949, 34% of the polled defined socialism to mean government having control over business.
Additionally, the group polled currently by Gallup had a larger percentage of people who thought there will be more socialist countries in the next 50 years – 29% in contrast to 14% in a 1949 survey.
On the flip side of this trend is the fact that more Americans seem to prefer that government stay out of healthcare and education – two big constituents of most socialist agendas. Only 41% would like to see more government involvement in higher education and 44% would want more fed control in healthcare.
On the whole, people also generally feel that the government already has more control than the free market over the U.S. economy, with 25% thinking that versus 18% who thought the free market was in command.