Public Opinion on Capitalism and Socialism

Public Opinion on Capitalism and Socialism

Public Opinion on Capitalism and Socialism

The Gallup Poll asks Americans about their attitudes toward capitalism and socialism on a semi-regular basis.

Some recent results are reported by Jeffrey M. Jones in “Socialism, Capitalism Ratings in U.S. Unchanged” (December 26, 2021, from a poll carried out in October 2021).

This figure shows the share of Americans who have a “positive image” of capitalism or of socialism. The answers over the last decade are, perhaps surprisingly, quite stable.


To put those percentages in context, here’s a ranking of capitalism and socialism relative to some other terms.


Everyone loves small business. If you are a supporter of “capitalism,” it may be a good public relations move to refer instead to “free enterprise,” and thus perhaps to sidestep possibly being associated with “big business.” However, big business generally garners more positive support than either socialism or the federal government. The rankings of these other terms have remained the same in the last decade, too, although levels of positivity associated with both big business and government have declined since about 2012.


Finally, you might think that people view capitalism and socialism as two sides of a coin: that is, you favor one or the other. But this isn’t necessarily true, as Frank Newport points out in “Deconstructing Americans’ Views of Socialism, Capitalism” (December 17, 2021). As the figure shows, about one-fifth of Americans have a favorable image of both capitalism and socialism, and another one-fifth have an unfavorable image of both.


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Timothy Taylor

Global Economy Expert

Timothy Taylor is an American economist. He is managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, a quarterly academic journal produced at Macalester College and published by the American Economic Association. Taylor received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Haverford College and a master's degree in economics from Stanford University. At Stanford, he was winner of the award for excellent teaching in a large class (more than 30 students) given by the Associated Students of Stanford University. At Minnesota, he was named a Distinguished Lecturer by the Department of Economics and voted Teacher of the Year by the master's degree students at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Taylor has been a guest speaker for groups of teachers of high school economics, visiting diplomats from eastern Europe, talk-radio shows, and community groups. From 1989 to 1997, Professor Taylor wrote an economics opinion column for the San Jose Mercury-News. He has published multiple lectures on economics through The Teaching Company. With Rudolph Penner and Isabel Sawhill, he is co-author of Updating America's Social Contract (2000), whose first chapter provided an early radical centrist perspective, "An Agenda for the Radical Middle". Taylor is also the author of The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works, published by the Penguin Group in 2012. The fourth edition of Taylor's Principles of Economics textbook was published by Textbook Media in 2017.

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