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The Zogby Poll®: Voters reject socialism; Half of voters have an unfavorable impression of socialism; A majority of Democrats do not want their party to declare itself a "socialist party"

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According to a Zogby Poll® of 1,744 likely voters, conducted randomly online from 2/14/19 to 2/17/19 with a margin of error of +/-2.3 percentage points, socialism is not fashionable among all likely voters, and especially among Democrats.

Socialism is all the rage on the left and in the news. The Democratic Party is moving hard to the left and even branding their policies as "socialist," but our polling shows this might be turning voters off. Multiple Democratic presidential hopefuls have embraced socialist policies like "Medicare for all," "open borders," "childcare for all," the "Green New Deal," and "universal income." All of these ideas are very progressive and becoming more popular with the national Democratic brand and main stream Democratic candidates. Take for instance New York Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has praised some of these ideas as the future of the party and the country. Although these ideas are in vogue with some party leaders and coastal city elites, most voters are not that enthusiastic about socialism. Only 29% of likely voters have a favorable impression of socialism (very favorable--10% and somewhat favorable--19% combined), while 49% are unfavorable-16% somewhat unfavorable and a third are very unfavorable, while a quarter of likely voters are not sure how they feel.

Socialism was more appealing to men (31% favorable/57% unfavorable) compared to women (26% favorable/42% unfavorable) and, not surprisingly, socialism appealed Democrats (44% favorable/26% unfavorable), Millennials aged 18-29 (45% favorable/33% unfavorable) and Generation Z voters aged 18-24 (48% favorable/32% unfavorable) more than Generation X voters-aged 30-49 (29% favorable/45% unfavorable) and Baby Boomers aged 65+ (20% favorable/63% unfavorable). When we dive into the data, socialism does have a favorable impression among self-identified liberals (56% favorable/20% unfavorable) and financially vulnerable respondents-likely voters who recently lost their jobs (59% favorable/24% unfavorable), afraid of losing their jobs (44% favorable/34% unfavorable), gone without food in the last 24 hours (56% favorable/24% unfavorable), and those who are financially worse off than they were four years ago (42% favorable/35% unfavorable). Still, one-fifth to one-third of these groups were not sure how they felt about socialism.

Where likely voters live also determined how they felt about socialism. Voters in medium (38% favorable/40% unfavorable) to large size cities (37% favorable/39% unfavorable) were more likely to have a favorable impression of socialism compared to small city voters (29% favorable/49% unfavorable), voters in the suburbs (23% favorable/53% unfavorable), and rural areas (26% favorable/52% unfavorable).

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Overall, 30% of likely voters want the national Democratic Party to declare itself a "socialist party," while a plurality (43%) say no to that idea. A little more than a quarter of voters are not sure. Among registered Democrats, it's a whole different story-only 13% want the national Democratic Party to be labeled a "socialist party," while 57% said no. Due to socialism's unfavorable impression with all likely voters, Democrats are cautious to call themselves "socialists."

Age did not come into play; a third of likely voters aged 18-29 (32% yes/36% no/32% not sure) and aged 65+ (35% yes/49% no/16% not sure) said yes, but older voters were much less likely to be unsure about the national Democratic party branding itself a "socialist party." Men (36% yes/45% no/18% not sure) were more likely to want the Democratic Party to label itself "socialist" compared to women (24% yes/41% no). Women were one of the sub-groups to be most unsure about Democrats branding the national party "socialist". White voters (33% yes/44% no) and Hispanics (29% yes/39% no) were also more likely than African Americans (23% yes/37% no) to want the national Democratic party to call itself "a socialist party." Nearly 40% of African Americans were not sure about the national party being labeled a "socialist party."

No other demographic we surveyed was quick to want the Democratic Party to become a "socialist party" except Republicans (52% yes/27% no), self-identified conservatives (52% yes/26% no), and NASCAR fans (41% yes/32% no). Republicans want Democrats to identify as "socialists" because of the negative connotations associated with this form of government, but Democrats still are pushing for socialist-type policies that they hope will win over voters in 2020.

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A majority of likely voters believe that in a socialist system the government has more power than the individual. Could this be why so few Democrats are excited to call their national party a "socialist party?" These results rang true among all demographics. Interestingly, one-third of Millennials aged 18-29 and self-identified liberals were more likely to feel power resides with the individual as opposed to the government. Likely voters who lost their jobs recently were twice as likely to say the individual (42%) has more power than the government (39%) in a socialist system.

The Takeaways

  • Socialism is not popular with likely voters and Democrats despite their hard shift to "socialist style" policies, especially among the 2020 Democratic candidates.
  • Millennials and Generation Z voters are likely to have a more favorable impression of socialism than older voters. Still, only 45-48% of likely voters aged 18-24 and 18-29 had a favorable impression of socialism.
  • Financially vulnerable respondents-likely voters who recently lost their jobs, afraid of losing their jobs, gone without food in the last 24 hours, and those who are financially worse off than they were four years ago had the most favorable impression of socialism.
  • Democrats were emphatic in their desire not to be labeled a "socialist party." Only 13% want this. Not surprisingly, a majority of Republicans and conservatives would love this label because of the negative connotations it highlights.
  • 2020 Democratic hopefuls need to be careful because even the most ardent Democrats don't want the national party to be labeled as "socialist." Socialism might get a lot of media attention and even be popular in some young circles, but our polling suggests it has an image problem. Only 29% of likely voters had a favorable impression of it and only a third of Democrats are favorable toward socialism.
  • While more than half (57%) of likely voters think more power resides with the government in a socialist system of government, younger voters are slightly more likely to think power resides with the individual in socialism. Overall, 30% of Democrats are unsure how they feel about socialism and so are one fifth of voters aged 18-24 and 18-29. There is still time to sway even more young people, women and minorities that socialism will benefit them, but a push too far to the left could wind up re-electing Donald Trump.
  • One note that must be pointed out is Senator Bernie Sanders, who has officially announced running for the White House in 2020, and has declared himself a "socialist" for years, soundly defeats Donald Trump in our polling. It's still way too early to make any bets on who the nominee will be for the Democrats and who wins the general election, but it's still fun nonetheless.
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