Warn the boomer op-ed class: Socialism is becoming more popular than capitalism among Democrats. Somewhere in New York, a siren blares in Jonathan Chait’s living room; wee-oo, wee-oo, the Democrats have forgotten Marxism is bad!!! Yes, it’s true: a Gallup poll released today shows the number of Democrats who approve of capitalism has dropped by nine points to 47%, while 57% approve of socialism.
As the New Republic’s Sarah Jones pointed out, the number of Democrats who have a favorable view of socialism has remained about the same as it was in 2016—it was 58% then and it’s 57% now, well within the margin of error. It was 53% 2010, so the increase is only a few points. It also makes you wonder why so many Democratic politicians are afraid of the “s” word when more than half their voters have had a favorable view of it consistently since 2010.
What is new, though, is the widening approval gap between socialism and capitalism. In previous polls, both had polled in the mid 50s, with no more than two points separating them; now, socialism beats out capitalism by 10 points.
The poll also found that the number of respondents who have a positive image of concepts like “free enterprise” and “small business” have decreased slightly, by 6% and 4% respectively. The federal government is also down four points, to 39%. Among young people, good feelings about capitalism have cratered—from 68% in 2010 to 45% now, with a 12 point drop just since 2016.
These developments are interesting in an abstract way, but what matters more is that policies put forth by politicians who aren’t afraid to use the socialist label, like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, poll well. Free college is even popular among Republicans; a majority of Americans said they support Medicare for all.
Capitalism isn’t working well for most Americans. Sure, they can choose from 40 types of shampoo, but they can’t afford healthcare; lots of them can afford iPhones (and many can’t), but they only have a few choices of cell service provider, all of whom charge too much and offer shit customer service. What Americans understand as the promises of capitalism have not materialized for most people, because they’ve been lied to about those promises—they think it’s a system where anyone can make money if they work hard enough, rather than one that fosters vast income inequality, monopolies, greed, and exploitation. People think capitalism is what will provide them a plentiful and secure life, which is what they want. Now they, especially young people, are realizing that isn’t true. How could they not?
If a majority of voters already say they support things like free college or a national healthcare system even amid our dystopian hellscape, just imagine what kind of policies could find popular support down the road if this trend of capitalism falling out of style holds.