Public opinion on capitalism and socialism

The Gallup Poll asks Americans about their attitudes toward capitalism and socialism on a semi-regular basis.

Some recent findings are reported by Jeffrey M. Jones in “Socialism, Capitalism Ratings in US Unchanged” (December 26, 2021, based on a poll conducted in October 2021).

This figure shows the share of Americans who have a “positive image” of capitalism or socialism. Responses over the past decade have been, perhaps surprisingly, fairly stable.

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To put these percentages into context, here is a ranking of capitalism and socialism versus other terms.

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Everyone loves small businesses. If you are a believer in “capitalism”, it may be a good idea to refer to “free enterprise” and therefore perhaps avoid being associated with “big business”. However, big business generally garners more positive support than socialism or the federal government. The ranking of these other terms has also remained the same over the past decade, although levels of positivity associated with big business and government have declined since around 2012.

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Finally, you might think that people see capitalism and socialism as two sides of the same coin: that is, you favor one or the other. But that’s not necessarily true, as Frank Newport points out in “Deconstructing Americans’ Views of Socialism, Capitalism” (December 17, 2021). As the figure shows, about one-fifth of Americans have a favorable image of capitalism and socialism, and another fifth have an unfavorable image of both.

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