Republicans express intensely negative views of “socialism” and highly positive views of “capitalism.”
By contrast, majorities of Democrats view both terms positively, though only modest shares have strong impressions of each term.
Overall, a much larger share of Americans have a positive impression of capitalism (65%) than socialism (42%), according to a new survey by Pew Research Center.
There are large partisan differences in views of capitalism: Nearly eight-in-ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (78%) express somewhat or very positive reactions to the term, while just over half of Democrats and Democratic leaners (55%) say they have a positive impression.
But these differences are dwarfed by the partisan gap in opinions about socialism. More than eight-in-ten Republicans (84%) have a negative impression of socialism; a 63% majority has a very negative view. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats (65%) have a positive view of socialism, but only 14% have a very positive view.
The survey, conducted April 29-May 13, 2019, also asked adults about their impressions of several other terms: “libertarian,” “progressive,” “liberal” and “conservative.” Republicans and Democrats diverge in their impressions of progressive, liberal and conservative, but express similar views of libertarian.
Many do not view socialism, capitalism in ‘either-or’ terms
While 39% of Americans have both a positive view of capitalism and a negative view of socialism, a quarter have positive views of both terms and 17% express negative opinions about both. Another 16% have a positive opinion of socialism and a negative opinion of capitalism.
When parsing attitudes about both terms by partisanship, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to hold positive views of both socialism and capitalism (38%) than an exclusively positive view of one or the other. Smaller shares of Democrats have differing views of the two words or negative views of both.
Among Republicans, there is greater agreement. A majority (68%) say they have a positive view of capitalism and a negative view of socialism – including 39% who say they have a very positive view of capitalism and a very negative view of socialism.
In addition to partisan differences on views of socialism and capitalism, there also are sizable demographic differences – including by age, gender and race and ethnicity.
Similar shares of adults younger than 30 express positive views of capitalism (52%) and socialism (50%). Among older age groups, views of capitalism are more positive than opinions of socialism.
Women are more likely than men to view socialism positively (46% vs. 38%), while a much larger share of men (74%) than women (56%) view capitalism positively. Nearly twice as many men as women have a very positive impression of capitalism (33% vs. 17%).
Nearly two-thirds of black Americans (65%) and 52% of Hispanics have positive impressions of the term socialism, compared with just 35% of whites. Majorities of blacks, whites and Hispanics view capitalism positively.
Adults with family incomes of $75,000 or more have more positive views of capitalism than do those with lower incomes. The pattern is reversed for views of socialism: Those with incomes of less than $30,000 express more positive views of socialism than those with higher incomes.
The gender and age differences evident in these attitudes also hold when controlling for partisanship. Women in both parties have less positive views of the term capitalism than their male counterparts. Among Republicans, there is a 19 percentage point gender gap on capitalism, with Republican women expressing less positive views of capitalism than Republican men (68% to 87%, respectively). Just half of Democratic women say they have a positive view of capitalism (50%), compared with 62% of Democratic men.
There is a more modest gender gap among Republicans on views of socialism (10 points); similar majorities of Democratic men and women say they have a positive view of socialism.
Mirroring the age divide among the public overall, younger people in both partisan groups are less likely than older adults to express positive views of capitalism, though the gap is much larger among Democrats.
Democrats under 30 have significantly less positive impressions of capitalism than their older counterparts. In fact, they are the only subgroup for which views of the term are more negative than positive on balance (43% hold positive views, 55% hold negative views). In contrast, a majority of Democrats ages 65 and older have positive views of capitalism (69%), as do majorities of those 50 to 64 (58%) and 30 to 49 (55%).
Younger Republicans (18 to 49) are slightly less likely to hold positive views of capitalism than those 50 and older (75% to 80%, respectively), and are significantly less likely to hold very positive views.
Although only small shares of Republicans in any age group report having positive views of socialism, those 18 to 29 are significantly more likely than older Republicans to have a positive view (25% vs. 13%, respectively). Among Democrats, similar majorities within each age group report having positive impressions of the term.
Majorities have positive views of ‘progressive,’ ‘conservative,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘libertarian’
Americans have generally positive views of other political terms asked about in the survey, though these views also differ along partisan lines. Majorities have positive impressions of “progressive” (66%), “conservative” (60%), “liberal” (55%) and “libertarian” (also 55%).
Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to have a positive view of the term progressive (88% vs. 40%). The gap is even wider in positive impressions of “liberal” (81% vs. 23%).
An overwhelming majority of Republicans (87%) say they have positive impressions of “conservative,” while six-in-ten Democrats hold negative views.
Overall, Democrats hold more positive views of the term “conservative” than Republicans do of “liberal.” Nearly four-in-ten Democrats (38%) say they view “conservative” positively compared with fewer than a quarter of Republicans who view “liberal” in the same light.
Meanwhile, Americans overall view the term “libertarian” positively. An almost identical small majority of Republicans (55%) and Democrats (56%) express positive impressions of “libertarian,” but relatively small shares of both parties say they have a very positive view (12% of Republicans, 7% of Democrats). Instead, pluralities from each party say they have a somewhat positive impression of this term – including 49% of Democrats and 43% of Republicans.
Note: See full topline results and methodology.