Not even all the way through the primary season for the 2018 elections, it’s clear that socialism has caught a tailwind. In May, four candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America won elections in Pennsylvania. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated a Democratic congressional leader in a race for the seat in New York’s 14th district on a platform of universal healthcare and free public college, and she will likely be joined in Congress by Rashida Tlaib, a Democratic Socialist candidate who won a crowded primary in Michigan’s 13th district, and will likely become the first Muslim woman to serve in Congress.
A new Gallup poll demonstrates that these candidates are part of a larger shifting of thought. Since 2010, the polling company has done a survey every two years of Americans’ attitudes toward socialism and capitalism, respectively, and split the results by party. On the right, views of both ideologies have held fairly since 2010. Around 72% of conservatives retain a positive view of capitalism, and just around 17% think well of socialism.
On the left is where things get more interesting. Socialism has climbed up the ranks of popularity since 2010, when 53% of liberals held a positive view of it. That proportion is now 57%. Their estimation of capitalism, however, has plummeted. In 2016, 56% of people on the left thought well of capitalism; now, just 47% do–the lowest the ideology has ever polled among liberals.
“Views of socialism among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are particularly important in the current political environment because many observers have claimed the Democratic Party is turning in more of a socialist direction,” Frank Newport wrote in a blog summarizing the findings on Gallup.com.
Of course, the last time Gallup took this poll, Barack Obama was still president. With his hotel empire, numerous side businesses, and history of shortchanging employees and contractors, current President Donald Trump perhaps encapsulates capitalism at its worst, and has likely helped shove it down the rankings as his approval rating has slunk down to the level of Richard Nixon’s shortly before he resigned in 1974.
But the shift from socialism to capitalism on the left–particularly among young people, whose positive view of capitalism has fallen to just 45% (from 68% in 2010)–is probably not explained by Trump alone. Since the 1970s, wages (adjusted for inflation) have barely risen, while cost of living has skyrocketed across the U.S. Meanwhile, the top 1% of earners in America–CEOs, high-powered corporate lawyers–has captured 85% of income growth that’s occurred since 2009. Jobs in hospitality and admin, which were once sources of stable if not extravagant income and benefits like healthcare, are shifting to contract-based models that often provide neither.
And when the ruling party of the country keeps saying widely popular ideas–like Obamacare–are socialist, people might be inclined to start thinking socialism is a smart idea.