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Opinion Millennials have a higher opinion of socialism than of capitalism

In my column today, I mentioned that one reason millennials prefer Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton is that they’re not just willing to look past Sanders’s socialism — they actually like his socialism. It’s a feature, not a bug.

Here are some of the data I was referring to.

In a recent YouGov survey, respondents were asked whether they had a “favorable or unfavorable opinion” of socialism and of capitalism. Below are the results of their answers, broken down by various demographic groups.

As you can see, overall, 52 percent expressed a favorable view of capitalism, compared with 29 percent for socialism. Republicans, those in families earning more than $100,000, and people age 65-plus had an especially high regard for capitalism compared with socialism, but respondents in almost every demographic category demonstrated the same preference to some degree.

There were just two exceptions to this pattern: Democrats rated socialism and capitalism equally positively (both at 42 percent favorability). And respondents younger than 30 were the only group that rated socialism more favorably than capitalism (43 percent vs. 32 percent, respectively).

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Additionally, last summer Gallup asked survey respondents about whether they would be willing to vote for a generally well-qualified presidential candidate whom their party had nominated, and who happened to be from a particular background, such as “black,” “Mormon,” “atheist,” “a woman,” “gay or lesbian,” “socialist,” etc.

“Socialist” was at the bottom of the list of 11 characteristics Gallup asked about, with just 47 percent saying they would vote for a socialist. It was also the only category for which a majority of respondents said they’d be unwilling to vote for such a candidate.

Young people proved to be about equally or more open-minded than their elders on all the categories Gallup tested, but the biggest gap between young and old was on “socialist” candidates:

Just 34 percent of respondents age 65 and older said they would be willing to vote for a socialist, compared with about twice that level among respondents younger than 30.

This Gallup question is of course about willingness to vote for a certain kind of candidate, rather than preferences in voting for that kind of candidate vs. another.

Note also that these numbers are from last June, and Sanders’s campaign has gathered much more enthusiasm and support since then. That suggests that voters’ willingness to vote for a socialist may have increased since Gallup last asked.