- Recent surveys find that an increasing number of Americans are beginning to view socialism favorably.
- There is growing concern that the actual definition and implementation of socialism is misunderstood by much of the electorate.
- Party lines remain firm and divided over the prospect of socialism, which has seen much more support from Democratic voters than Republicans.
Recent surveys by a variety of organizations have revealed that an increasing number of Americans are beginning to view socialism as a favorable solution to the country’s problems. Gaining prominence in the 2016 presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, the concept of “democratic socialism” has taken root, particularly among millennial voters. But is socialism a legitimate option for the U.S.? Is socialism the answer? Is it really a viable solution to the nation’s many problems?
Merriam Webster defines socialism as “government ownership of production and/or the abolition of private property”. In other words, socialism would eliminate the privatization of certain industries deemed “necessities,” such as healthcare.
Candidates like Bernie Sanders have built their entire political platform around this notion, selling concepts such as single-payer healthcare and education for all to a majority-younger demographic. To make these proposals feasible, Sanders proposes increasing taxes to the wealthiest one percent of Americans to fund these changes.
This concept of socialism has grown since then, with the Democratic Socialists of America gaining 30,000 members, mostly consisting of individuals in their twenties. Bernie Sanders accumulated over two million votes during the presidential election. And recent polls conducted by organizations such as Gallup and YouGov report a growing majority of younger voters who say they would prefer to live under a socialist government rather than a capitalist one.
That said, there is growing concern that perhaps the actual definition and implementation of socialism is misunderstood. Is socialism simply trendy, hanging on to buzzwords like “free healthcare” or “free education”? With staunch, high-profile supporters such as Sen. Sanders and newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the conversation has certainly gained momentum.
But there’s a wrinkle in the narrative: many respondents said they wanted to live in a socialist society, but also wanted to have entrepreneurial opportunities. Entrepreneurship is a concept borne out of capitalism, which allows for the existence of personal and intellectual property. In fact, 90 percent of poll respondents in a recent YouGov survey said that they favored entrepreneurship, while also responding favorably to socialism. This contradiction could be an indication of a lack of education and misunderstanding of exactly what socialism entails.
Party lines remain firm and divided on this topic, which has seen much more support from Democratic voters than Republicans. Examples of failed socialist economies — Venezuela or Cuba, for example — are quickly brushed aside by proponents in favor of more positive pictures such as Denmark, which in fact is a market economy rather than a socialist one.
While some may hold fast to their belief that socialism, at least in part, could be a solution to many of America’s problems, it’s clear from studying poll data that many Americans simply lack a robust understanding of the concept. There is clearly a need for education so that voters may make more informed decisions at the polls.
Simply settling on “socialism” and “free” as buzzwords may work for creating the beginnings of a political movement, but it is important to ensure that American voters are educated about the actual definitions and examples of various types of economies. Making an informed, educated decision about the future of the country is a critical part of any voting cycle, and this should be a greater focus — rather than simply boasting about the concept of “free” with little to no explanation of how.
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