Socialism, the odds of capitalism in the United States unchanged

Highlights of History

  • Capitalism is viewed positively by 60%; socialism, 38%
  • Positive image of large companies down six points to 46%
  • Democrats continue to view socialism more positively than capitalism

WASHINGTON, DC – Americans remain much more positive about capitalism than socialism, and their scores for each have remained largely stable over the past decade.

Line graph. Positive reviews of capitalism and socialism by Americans. Sixty percent of American adults in 2021 have a positive image of capitalism and 38% have a positive image of socialism. These odds are stable over time.

These results are based on a Gallup poll from October 1 to 19. Since 2010, Gallup has measured fundamental views of Americans on several economic and government terms, including capitalism and socialism. Their views on socialism have remained stable, even as Senator Bernie Sanders and progressive Democratic politicians have pursued an expanded role for government in tackling health care, poverty and early childhood education – des policies that their critics describe as leading the United States towards socialism. Likewise, Americans’ views on capitalism have not changed, even with a deeper discussion of income inequality in the United States and the concentration of American wealth in a small percentage of people.

Socialism is linked to “federal government” as the lowest-rated of the six terms included in the 2021 survey. In contrast, Americans are more positive about small business and free enterprise, while they are slightly more negative than positive towards large companies.

Positive and negative assessments of economic and government terms by Americans

Precisely, would you say that you have a positive or negative image of each of the following elements. What would you say — [RANDOM ORDER]?

Positive Negative
% %
Small business 97 3
Free enterprise 84 13
Capitalism 60 38
Big deal 46 53
Socialism 38 59
Federal government 38 62
Percentages “without notice” are not displayed
Gallup, October 1–19, 2021

Big Business Dip Reviews

Gallup has rated Americans’ opinions on these terms six times since 2010. Their opinions on each have not changed much, apart from a significant drop in positive federal ratings over time, from 51% in 2012 to 38%. in the 2019 and 2021 surveys.

This year’s survey showed a slight decline in positive ratings of large companies, from 52% to 46%, reflecting the decline in confidence in the institution of large companies and in satisfaction with the size and influence of large companies.

Line graph. Positive evaluations of economic and government terms by Americans. Ninety-seven percent of American adults have a positive image of small business, and 84 percent have a positive image of free enterprise. Meanwhile, 46% have a positive image of big business and 38% have a positive image of the federal government. Opinions about small business and free enterprise have remained stable over time, while assessments of large business and the federal government are less positive today than in years past.

Just as Republicans are responsible for the overall decline in public confidence in big business and satisfaction with corporate influence, shifting Republican views explain less positive perceptions of big business. Currently, 56% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, up from 72% in 2019, have a positive opinion of big business. The opinions of Democrats and Skinny Democrats are stable at 36%.

Line graph. Positive images of large companies by political party. Fifty-six percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have a positive opinion of big business in 2021. In most years, about 60% of Republicans have a positive opinion, except in 2012, where 75% did. and 72% in 2019 Democrats and Democratic supporters have historically been less positive towards big business than Republicans, with the latter’s percentages slightly above 40% between 2010 and 2016 and slightly below 40% since then, including 36 % in the current survey.

The Republicans’ obscure view of big business coincides with a period when many Republican executives and media figures have publicly criticized big business for their activism on social issues such as racial justice, diversity and inclusion, and the climate change. Many Republicans have also spoken out against big tech companies like Twitter and Facebook because they believe these companies are censoring conservative views.

Even so, Republicans still view big business positively overall, and more positively than Democrats.

Republicans and Democrats differ on their views on capitalism and socialism

The majority of Republicans and Democrats have a positive view of capitalism, but Republicans give it a higher rating. While about seven in ten Republicans and skinny Republicans have viewed capitalism positively since 2010, about half of Democrats have. This year, 72% of Republicans and 52% of Democrats have a positive image of capitalism.

Line graph. In 2021, 72% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have a positive view of capitalism and 52% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, generally similar to their ratings since 2010.

The opinions of the two partisan groups on socialism diverge even more, with 14% of Republicans and 65% of Democrats saying they have a positive image. Democrats’ views on socialism have become slightly more positive over the years, rising from 53% in 2010 and 2012 to over 60% in the last two surveys. Republicans have become slightly less positive about socialism than they were in the initial polls.

Line graph. Positive evaluations of socialism by political party. Sixty-five percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in 2021 have a positive view of socialism, compared to 14% of Republicans.

Since 2018, Democrats have rated socialism more positively than they have rated capitalism. Before that, they had similar views on the two economic systems.

Final result

Americans’ views on capitalism have generally been stable over the past decade, with about six in 10 having a positive view of capitalism and just under four in 10 having a positive view of socialism. Democrats view both economic systems favorably, but have become more positive towards socialism than capitalism.

Recent Gallup research has found that Americans, especially Democrats, are most likely to think of socialism in terms of equality and the government’s provision of benefits and services. When Gallup asked Americans about the meaning of socialism in 1949, the largest proportion described it in the traditional sense as government ownership of the means of economic production. So the meaning of the term for Americans is changing, but most still view it negatively.

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