Gallup: 60% of Americans Have Positive Image of Capitalism

By Michael Morris | May 19, 2016 | 4:54 PM EDT

Members of the Democratic Socialists of America march at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York. (Wikimedia Commons Photo/September 17, 2011)

In 2016, a majority of Americans (60%) have a positive image of capitalism, while only 35 percent have a positive image of socialism, a recent Gallup poll shows.

According to Gallup, “Americans’ image of socialism is no better now than it was six years ago.” Indeed, it is slightly worse. Back in 2010, a greater percentage (36%) of Americans had a positive view of socialism than do today (35%), and in 2012, 39 percent of Americans had a positive view of socialism, denoting a four percent drop between then and now.

Meanwhile, capitalism saw only a marginal drop over the same six year period. The 60 percent who have a positive view of capitalism in 2016 is only one percent lower than in both 2010 and 2012, when 61 percent of Americans had a positive image of capitalism.

During this same six year period, Americans’ image of the federal government has seen a modest decline. In 2010, 46 percent of Americans had a positive view of the federal government, compared with only 44 percent who have a positive view of the federal government today – a two percent drop over the period. In 2012, 51 percent of Americans had a positive view of the federal government.

Most interestingly, it is the younger generation of Americans that appears to contribute most to the percentage of Americans who view socialism positively, while older generations of Americans have a greater percentage who view capitalism positively.

According to Gallup, “Young Americans, aged 18-29, have more positive views of both the federal government and socialism than older Americans do. Young adults’ ratings of the federal government, capitalism, big business and socialism are similar – between 55% and 58% positive for each.”

57 percent of those Americans, aged 18-29, have a positive view of capitalism, and 55 percent of that same age have a positive view of socialism.

Of those Americans, aged 30-49, three percent fewer have a positive view of capitalism (54%), but a whopping 18 percent fewer have a positive view of socialism – only 37 percent.

Meanwhile, of Americans, aged 50-64 and 65+, 69 percent and 63 percent, respectively, have a positive view of capitalism, and less than 30 percent of Americans in each of these two age groups has a positive view of socialism (27% for those Americans, aged 50-64 and 24% for those Americans, aged 65+).

What are the implications of these results?

Overall reactions to capitalism are significantly more positive than views of socialism, “which is the least-liked term of any tested,” Gallup explains.

“It is notable that young Americans constitute the only age group that does not view the term socialism more negatively than capitalism,” says Gallup. “Older Americans’ much more negative reactions to socialism could be based on different historical or conceptual references than is the case for young people.”

According to Gallup, “Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 2-4, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,544 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.”

For more information, historical data can be found in Gallup Analytics.