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Friday, April 10, 2009

MInds Think Alike

Steve Benen comments on US views of Socialism

people don't think "socialism" is all that bad.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.

Specifically, Rasmussen asked respondents, "Which is a better system -- capitalism or socialism?" A narrow majority (53%) supported capitalism as the superior system. One in five backed socialism, and a surprisingly high 27% weren't sure.

You just can't have an effective red scare with numbers like these.

In terms of interpreting these results, the numbers certainly aren't what I expected, and it's hard to know why respondents answered as they did. Perhaps "capitalism" lost some of its appeal when our economy collapsed. Maybe a lot of people heard the media connect Obama and "socialism," and since they like the president, they figure socialism can't be that bad. In a similar vein, if right-wing blowhards like Limbaugh keep screaming that socialism is manifestly evil, there may be some who assume the economic model must have merit.

My immediate reaction as a comment

I'd consider an explanation of the results based on not quite so recent events. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics did a whole lot of damage to the socialist brand. People under 30 were, at most, 13 when the USSR collapsed.

How much of previous dislike of socialism in the US public and continuing dislike among the not so young is based on dislike of western European social democracy and how much is based on dislike of self declared "really existing socialism" ?

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on April 9, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Matthew Yglesias's immediate reaction in a blog post

The generational change here is interesting. I think it reflects the fact that on a basic level “socialism” is good branding. The whole idea is that we should put society first rather than capital, or money. That sounds good! But in the United States we never had a Socialist Party so “socialism” was primarily associated with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which was not at all good. But to people under 30, there’s less of that old resonance. And saying that Obama, who’s popular, is a “socialist” may simply tend to make people have warmer feelings toward the word “socialism.”

Yglesias has a photo, plus it's impressive that he has such insight into the views of the not so young, since he was about 6 when the USSR collapsed.

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