January 10, 2012

Little Change in Public’s Response to ‘Capitalism,’ ‘Socialism’

50 to 40

The recent Occupy Wall Street protests have focused public attention on what organizers see as the excesses of America’s free market system, but perceptions of capitalism have changed little since early 2010 despite the recent tumult. Half of all Americans have a positive view of capitalism, while 40% react negatively to the term.

The recent Occupy Wall Street protests have focused public attention on what organizers see as the excesses of America’s free market system, but perceptions of capitalism – and even of socialism – have changed little since early 2010 despite the recent tumult.

The public’s take on capitalism remains mixed, with only slightly more people saying they have a positive (50%) than a negative (40%) reaction to the term. That is largely unchanged from a 52% to 37% balance of opinion in April 2010.

The word ‘socialism’ triggers a negative reaction for most Americans, but certainly not for all. Six-in-ten (60%) people say they have a negative reaction to the word, while just 31% have a positive reaction. Those numbers are little changed from April 2010.

More affluent Americans, as well as conservative Republicans, are more likely to offer positive than negative reactions to the word ‘capitalism’ by a two-to-one margin. And among people who agree with the Tea Party movement, 71% view capitalism positively. Yet within each of these groups, a quarter or more of those surveyed say they have a negative reaction to the word ‘capitalism.’

Notably, liberal Democrats and supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement are not overtly critical of capitalism. Among liberal Democrats, 46% have a positive view of capitalism while 47% do not; among Occupy Wall Street supporters, 45% have a positive view of capitalism while 47% do not. Read More