Is Socialism On the Rise?


Over at The Corner, Ericka Andersen writes: “More and more liberal Americans are embracing socialism. Unfortunately, it seems many of them aren’t aware of the realities that citizens in countries like Venezuela face.”

That got me curious. Is it true that more and more liberal Americans are embracing socialism? I couldn’t find a whole lot on the subject, but Gallup has asked a few times recently whether people have a positive image of socialism. And in 2015 they asked whether people would vote for a socialist. Here are the results:

This isn’t much. Maybe ANES has some longer-term trends on this? Still, the Gallup polls don’t suggest any overall recent warming toward socialism. If liberals really are getting seduced by the red menace, some other group must be making up for it.

So what’s going on? A few recent polls have gotten a lot of attention for reporting that millennials prefer socialism to capitalism, but I doubt they really mean much. For one thing, we have no idea if this is anything new. For another, millennials polled in 2016 probably figured that socialist meant “Bernie Sanders.” But Bernie’s no socialist, no matter what he calls himself.1 He’s a European-style social democrat, just like me.

If I hear millennials starting to talk about nationalizing the banks and having the feds take over the steel mills, then it might be time to wonder what’s going on. Until then, I think the answer is: nothing.

1I don’t know what he believes in his heart of hearts, of course. In practice, however, he’s a pretty standard issue social democrat. So are lots of American liberals. Bernie is just more vocal about getting there right now than most of them. That’s one of the benefits of having a safe seat in Vermont.

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