Sea Change of Public Opinion: Libertarianism, Progressivism & Socialism

I’ve been pointing out over this past decade the sea change occurring in American demographics and public opinion. Despite being well informed, I was blown away by looking at an area of polling I hadn’t previously looked into as deeply.

Pew had a poll from a couple years ago that I missed. If you look at the broad public opinion, it looks like the same old same old. Most Americans have a more favorable opinion of capitalism than socialism. They also have a more favorable opinion of conservatism than liberalism. But it’s always in the details where it gets interesting. The cracks are beginning to show in the Cold War edifice.

More Americans have a positive opinion of progressivism, significantly more than their opinion of conservatism. As many have noted, progressivism has basically become the label for those who like liberalism but are afraid of the negative connotations of the word itself. There isn’t a vast difference between what liberals support and what progressives support.

Even most Republicans give a positive response toward progressivism. This probably relates as well to why many people who self-identify as conservatives will support many traditionally liberal positions. These positions back in the Progressive Era used to be called progressive. Americans strongly support them. That is the true Silent Majority or rather Silenced Majority.

Now, prepare to have your mind blown… or else your stereotypes dismantled.

More Democrats have a positive view of of libertarianism than Republicans. And fewer Democrats have a negative view of libertarianism than Republicans. This shouldn’t be as surprising as would be suggested by watching the MSM. Libertarianism is a direct political competitor with the Republican Party, but Libertarians socially have more in common with liberals and progressives.

What about socialism and capitalism?

“Of these terms, socialism is the more politically polarizing – the reaction is almost universally negative among conservatives, while generally positive among liberals. While there are substantial differences in how liberals and conservatives think of capitalism, the gaps are far narrower. Most notably, liberal Democrats and Occupy Wall Street supporters are as likely to view capitalism positively as negatively. And even among conservative Republicans and Tea Party supporters there is a significant minority who react negatively to capitalism.”

Interestingly, blacks and hispanics both have a negative view of capitalism. However, blacks have a more positive view of liberalism while hispanics have a more positive view of socialism. That will be an interesting future dynamic as these two demograhics grow.

As Sarah van Gelder, at Yes! Magazine, summarized this trend (Don’t Let the Apocalypse Get You Down):

“There is growing willingness to name corporate rule and global capitalism as key problems, and to look to decentralized, place-based economies as the answer. While capitalism is viewed more favorably among all Americans than socialism, the reverse is true among those under 29, African Americans and Hispanics, and those making less than $30,000 a year, according to a Pew poll. And more Americans have a favorable view of socialism than of the Tea Party.”

It should go without saying that, as more in the Cold War generations die off, those above demographics combined will quickly become the new majority. 

* * *

Capitalism: Big surprises in recent polls
by Charles Derber

Is Capitalism on Trial?
by Peter Dreier

‘Liberal’ unpopular, but newer ‘progressive’ label gets high marks in poll
by Neil Munro

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12/21/20 – Update: The polling referred to in this post is already about a decade old. Majority position has since then further shifted left, as it has been doing so for decades now. I’ve documented this leftist or progressive moral majority in the past (US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism). The majority, in being suppressed and silenced, has not yet gained the public knowledge and collective awareness that they are a majority. Instead, they feel disenfranchised and divided.

Nonetheless, more recent polling from PRRI and Fox News show how left keeps going further and further left (American People Keep Going Further Left, Polarization Between the Majority and Minority, & Fox News: Americans are the ‘Left-Wing’ Enemy Threatening America). The growing suppressed and silenced majority includes not only the public favoring social issues like same sex marriage and woman’s rights but also hardcore economic issues such as progressive taxation and universal healthcare, not to mention growing support for environmental regulations and alternative energy funding as seen with the Green New Deal.

This majority has been developing while much of this gets attacked as socialist by Republicans and sometimes by Democrats as well. President elect Joe Biden felt the need to signal his alliance with big biz by consistently punching left, both before and after winning the election. Yet Americans remain unfazed by the propaganda machine, as they continue the leftward trend. This was seen even before the election began, as we near a tipping point.

Four in 10 Americans Embrace Some Form of Socialism
by Mohamed Younis, 5/20/19

“Americans today are more closely divided than they were earlier in the last century when asked whether some form of socialism would be a good or bad thing for the country. While 51% of U.S. adults say socialism would be a bad thing for the country, 43% believe it would be a good thing. Those results contrast with a 1942 Roper/Fortune survey that found 40% describing socialism as a bad thing, 25% a good thing and 34% not having an opinion. […]

“Previous Gallup research shows that Americans’ definition of socialism has changed over the years, with nearly one in four now associating the concept with social equality and 17% associating it with the more classical definition of having some degree of government control over the means of production. A majority of Democrats have said they view socialism positively in Gallup polling since 2010, including 57% in the most recent measure in 2018. […]

“Additionally, while a majority of Democrats view socialism positively, that is not a major change in the eight years Gallup has tracked this metric. The major shift over this time has been the reduced rate of Democrats who now view capitalism positively (47%).

“These data alone make it hard to generalize a simplistic conclusion about Americans’ opinions of, and willingness to entertain, socialism. But there are a few clear takeaways. About four in 10 Americans are accepting of some form of socialism or socialist policies, and Democrats currently have a more positive view of socialism than capitalism. In addition, the April survey found that 47% of Americans say they would vote for a socialist candidate for president.”