Definitions of Socialism Broaden as Support for Capitalism Drops, Gallup Research Shows

Written by Wendy Wilson

Americans today are less likely to define socialism as government ownership of the means of  production and more likely to describe it in relation to equality or government benefits and social services, according to a new Gallup poll conducted in September.

Only seventeen percent of Americans in 2018 define socialism as government ownership of the means of production compared to twice that number in 1949 when Gallup first surveyed Americans on the term. According to Gallup News, the latest survey shows how the term has broadened in recent years. Six percent in 2018 even described socialism as “talking to people, being social, social media, getting along with people.” Close to a quarter of Americans offered no opinion, though that number was 36 percent in 1949.

A Gallup News story notes:

Socialism has re-entered the public discourse over the past several years, in part due to the high profile candidacy of socialist Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, as well as the surprise victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America organization, in the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th Congressional District. According to a news report from Axios, over 40 socialists have won in primary elections this year, and the membership of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has grown from 7,000 members to 50,000 since 2016.

Republicans are much more likely to view socialism as government control of the means of production than are Democrats and more likely to describe socialism in negative ways, according to the September Gallup survey.

In an earlier survey conducted in late July and early August, Gallup found that 57 percent of Democrats have a positive view of socialism while only 47 percent have a positive view of capitalism, a greater difference than seen in three previous measures going back to 2010. The survey in the summer did not define socialism and capitalism but simply asked respondents if they had a favorable or negative view. Republicans, by contrast, have remained significantly more supportive of capitalism. The survey also found that fewer than half of Americans aged 18-29 view capitalism positively, marking a 12-point decline in just two years and down from 68 percent of young adults viewing capitalism positively in 2010.

Progressive Christians are becoming more openly tolerant and even enthusiastic about socialism, but other Christians are pushing back against it. In 2016, Christian writer Julie Roys wrote a blog post stating her views on why socialism isn’t Christian. Roys wrote:

To socialists, all that really exists is the material world. In fact, Karl Marx, the father of socialism/communism, invented the notion of dialectical materialism – the belief that matter contains a creative power within itself. This enabled Marx to eliminate the need for a creator, essentially erasing the existence of anything non-material. To socialists, suffering is caused by the unequal distribution of stuff – and salvation is achieved by the re-distribution of stuff. There’s no acknowledgment of spiritual issues. There’s just an assumption that if everyone is given equal stuff, all the problems in society will somehow dissolve. This worldview contradicts Christianity, which affirms the existence of both a material and a non-material world – and teaches that mankind’s greatest problems are spiritual. The Bible says the cause of suffering is sin and salvation is found in the cross of Christ, which liberates us from sin. Because of sin, though, there will always be inequalities in wealth.

Roys said the Bible presents material gain, including aid, as being linked to character and responsibility. She cited verses such as 2 Thessalonians 3:10, which says, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” and 1 Timothy 5:10, which says widows receiving aid should be known for doing good deeds.

Roys also said socialism promotes envy and class warfare and the destruction of the family to enable greater state power.

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