Hazards of Verbal Overkill

Over the last couple of decades, the right has become increasingly bold about railing against government programs and proclaiming Democrats to be socialists. One problem with this kind of verbal overkill is that the accusation loses its force. The 2011 Pew poll on American attitudes about socialism and capitalism shows a generational shift in American attitudes as well as sharp ethnic and economic divisions. Pro capitalism musters only 50% overall, though Americans are still pretty anti-socialism by 60% to 31%.

Unsurprisingly, pro capitalist sentiment is concentrated in the relatively well to do and conservative Republicans. The same groups are anti-socialist, but the real core of anti-socialism is, ironically enough, those 65 and older (72-13). I say ironically, because the two big socialist programs of the US government are Social Security and Medicare, programs which have overwhelming support among their over 65 beneficiaries.

Not only does a plurality (49-43) of young people hold a favorable view of socialism — and, by a tiny margin (47-46), a negative view of capitalism — so do liberal Democrats, who view socialism positively by a solid 59-33; and African Americans, 55-36. Hispanics are modestly opposed, 49-44, to socialism, but they hold decisively negative attitudes toward capitalism, 55-32.

If American capitalism is to remain healthy, it looks like some sales strategy beyond hysteria might be needed.


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