Americans remain much more positive toward capitalism than socialism, and their ratings of each have been largely stable over the past decade-plus. And yet the fact that a whopping 38% of Americans view socialism positively is an ominous indicator of the current social state.
These results are based on an Oct. 1-19 Gallup survey. Since 2010, Gallup has measured Americans’ basic opinions of several economic or governmental terms, including capitalism and socialism. Their views of socialism have held steady, even as Sen. Bernie Sanders and progressive Democratic politicians have pursued an expanded government role in addressing healthcare, poverty and early childhood education — policies their critics describe as moving the U.S. toward socialism. Likewise, Americans’ opinions of capitalism have not varied, even with greater discussion of income inequality in the U.S. and the concentration of U.S. wealth in a small percentage of people.
According to Gallup, socialism ties with “the federal government” as the lowest rated of the six terms included in the 2021 survey. In contrast, Americans are most positive toward small business and free enterprise, while they are slightly more negative than positive toward big business.
Ratings of Big Business Dip
Gallup has assessed Americans’ opinions of these terms on six occasions since 2010. Their opinions on each have not moved much, apart from a significant decline in positive ratings of the federal government over time, from as high as 51% in 2012 to 38% in both the 2019 and 2021 surveys.
This year’s survey did show a modest decline in positive ratings of big business, from 52% to 46%, which mirrors declines in confidence in the institution of big business and in satisfaction with the size and influence of major corporations.
Just as Republicans are responsible for the overall decreases in public confidence in big business and satisfaction with corporate influence, shifting Republican views account for the less-positive perceptions of big business. Currently, 56% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, down from 72% in 2019, have a positive opinion of big business. Democrats’ and Democratic leaners’ views are stable, at 36%.
Republicans’ dimmed views of big business coincide with a period when many Republican leaders and media personalities have publicly criticized large corporations for activism on social issues like racial justice, diversity and inclusion, and climate change. Many Republicans have also spoken out against large technology companies like Twitter and Facebook because they believe those companies are censoring conservative viewpoints.
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