October 28, 2019 byJulia Conley, staff writer Common Dreams Critics blame poll results on ‘historical amnesia,’ while progressive observers say millennials associate socialism with strong social welfare systems
Participants hold a “Kill Capitalism” banner while marching through Central Park in New York City. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A survey released Monday revealed that 70 percent of U.S. millennials—those between the ages of 23 and 38 in 2019—would support a socialist candidate for president, a result which a number of progressives viewed as an outgrowth of the damage wrought in recent decades by neoliberal capitalism and the ruling corporate order.
Among those slightly younger, voters between the ages of 16 and 22, the sentiment was almost as high with nearly two-thirds of Generation Z saying the same.
The poll was taken by YouGov and paid for by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), which surveyed 2,100 people about their views of capitalism and the U.S. economic system, socialism, and inequality in the United States.
Half of millennials and 51 percent of Generation Z respondents reported negative views of capitalism while the two groups had more favorable views of the term “socialism” than the Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Silent Generation members—people born roughly between 1925 and 1980—who answered the poll.
The survey was released five months after a Gallup poll revealed that 43 percent of Americans embrace some form of socialism.
“Millennials have come of age during an era in which under-regulated capitalism nearly destroyed the global economy and those people were bailed out and nobody went to jail. I’m surprised the support for socialism isn’t higher.”
—Oliver Willis, ShareblueSome progressives on social media said the difference in opinion regarding the two economic models was no surprise considering the state of capitalism in the United States over the past several decades.
Millions of millennials were in the early years of adulthood when the subprime lending practices used by powerful Wall Street firms contributed to the 2008 economic meltdown and the Great Recession, while about 15 million student loan borrowers between the ages of 25 and 34 owe a total of $497 billion in student debt.
Millennials and Generation Z have also entered adulthood in a time when 53 percent of Americans face medical debt and problems paying medical bills—including people who have health insurance through the for-profit health insurance industry.
Considering the damage the U.S. capitalist system has done to millions of families during their lifetime, wrote Oliver Willis of Shareblue, “I’m surprised the support for socialism isn’t higher.”
VOC executive director Marion Smith, meanwhile, blamed the poll results on the “historical amnesia” of young people who are uneducated about the failed violent, authoritarian “socialist” regimes of the 20th century in Europe.
“We need to redouble our efforts to educate America’s youth about the history of communist regimes and the dangers of socialism today,” Smith said in a statement, adding in a tweet that 66 percent of respondents don’t associate socialism with “public ownership or the violent history of communist regimes.”
“Blaming it on ‘historical amnesia’?” author Stephen Wetta tweeted. “How about the current state of capitalism?”
Recent protests led by Swedish climate action campaigner Greta Thunberg, who is 16, have focused largely on how unchecked capitalism and government leaders’ relentless focus on economic growth have led to an acceleration of the climate crisis.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) identifies as a democratic socialist, as does Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Both have achieved popularity with young voters, and both have a record of prioritizing government-run programs that will serve all Americans—like Medicare for All—over preserving for-profit entities like the private health insurance industry.
Sanders frequently invokes the economic systems in countries like Sweden and Denmark, where citizens pay higher taxes than in the U.S. to support universal healthcare systems and other government benefits.
“I don’t view [the poll results] as wanting communism but that they want affordable healthcare, education, and housing,” tweeted scientist and entrepreneur Ryan Bethencourt.
Although Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation had the least favorable views of socialism in the survey, older Americans receive the most benefits from government-run, taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Social Security.
Older respondents to VOC’s survey were also the most likely to report that the U.S. economic system is working for them.Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.