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Americans Favor Capitalism, Tempted by Socialism, Ill-informed About Both

Surveys sometimes reveal frightening or shocking things that Americans believe. A new survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute provides such a stunning insight.

Four out of ten American adults (40%) claim that they prefer socialism to capitalism.

That means, of course, that about six out of ten prefer capitalism to socialism. However, the numbers of those who prefer socialism have been steadily rising over the past few years, according to researcher George Barna, who directed the survey. And even though younger people were more likely than their elders to embrace the notion of a socialist America, substantial numbers of older Americans bought into the premise as well. About half of Millennials (52%) said they would prefer socialism, compared to 45% of the Gen X respondents, more than one-third of Boomers (37%), and one-quarter (26%) of those 65 or older.

The survey found significant proportions of various population groups unexpectedly leaning toward socialism. Those segments included one out of every five political conservatives (21%), three out of ten born again Christians (30%), one-fourth of those who are theologically conservative (24%), one in six adults with a biblical worldview (15%), and more than four out of ten residents of the South (43%).

Inconsistency Was Evident

The survey revealed, however, that the term “socialism” may not be widely understood by Americans. That insight was revealed through several testing approaches.

For instance, the results found that when the 2,000 survey respondents were asked whether they preferred capitalism or socialism, and their answers were compared to their preferred form of government in specific governance situations, those who claimed to prefer capitalism consistently chose the capitalist perspective in 17% of the situations tested while a mere 2% of those who claimed to prefer socialism consistently opted for that form of government in the situational testing. Those outcomes indicate that the governance preferences of the remaining four out of five people formed an irregular patchwork of both governance approaches.

Specific Preferences Tilted Toward Capitalism

The survey asked respondents to choose between two opposing approaches to life on seven different dimensions. Amazingly, a larger share of respondents – and, in most cases, a much larger share – indicated a preference for the capitalist principles and behaviors, believing it would lead to a better society than the foundational practices a socialist society would produce.

  • An overwhelming ratio of adults (12-to-1) says they prefer a nation with individual ownership of private property to one where all property is owned by the government (82% – 7%)
  • By a 6-to-1 ratio, Americans want a government that takes its direction from the people rather than to live in a nation where the population takes its direction from the government (76% – 12%)
  • Economically, there are six Americans who want a country featuring prices of goods based on the free market for every one person who prefers to have the price of goods determined by government policies (75% – 12%)
  • Americans prefer a society based on self-reliance instead of government reliance by a 5:1 ratio (69% – 14%)
  • U.S. citizens are four times more likely to desire an economy based on private enterprise than one based upon government-run industries (65% – 15%)
  • Americans are more than three times as likely to opt for a government with limited power and an agenda defined and monitored by the public than to desire a government with high ideals and unlimited authority to pursue those ideals (67% – 19%)
  • People are twice as likely to want a government of servant-leaders whose job is to discern and carry out the will of the people to a government of experts who have good intentions and substantial power to make decisions for the people (60% – 28%)

Fast Transition

The research revealed that after people had answered roughly three dozen questions about their preferred form of government and the reasons for those preferences, a significant share of the population realized they did not know enough about these matters to have a viable opinion.

Specifically, respondents were asked several summary questions toward the end of the survey. The first of those questions asked them (again) which economic system they personally preferred. At the start of the survey, 40% had said they preferred socialism. At the tail end of the process, only 25% said they preferred socialism, a 15-percentage-point slide. The preference for capitalism slipped from 60% to 45%, also a 15-point decline. The biggest shift of all was that 28% admitted they did not know which economic system they preferred. (A handful chose communism.)

Respondents were then asked which economic system best describes the United States today. Two-thirds of adults (65%) stated that the U.S. is a capitalist nation. One-eighth of the respondents (12%) claimed the U.S. is socialist, while a larger share (19%) admitted they do not know.

When asked where the U.S. is headed in the future, even greater ambiguity emerged. A plurality (40%) said the United States will be a capitalist society, while half as many (21%) said it will be socialist, and almost three out of ten (29%) said they do not know.

Finally, respondents were asked which economic system is most compatible with the life principles taught in the Bible. The largest share of respondents – nearly four out of ten (39%) – said they do not know. The rest were spread almost evenly between socialism (30%) and capitalism (26%).

The replies of people from religious segments regarding the relationship between forms of governance and biblical principles were intriguing. A plurality of born again Christians (40%) opted for capitalism while easily the largest share of non-born again adults (42%) said they did not know which form of government best exemplified biblical principles.  Likewise, the largest proportions of people aligned with non-Christian faiths (40%) and Skeptics (53%) said they did not know. While Protestants were more likely to choose capitalism than socialism, Catholics did the opposite. Almost six out of ten people with a biblical worldview chose capitalism while those who held a different worldview were more likely to name socialism as best reflecting biblical principles.

Reliance on Government

The survey indicated that while people might be confused about capitalism and socialism, they have no doubt that they want their government to take the lead in addressing many specific cultural needs.

Survey respondents were asked which of five decision-making entities was best-equipped to most often make good decisions for the public in relation to each of eight social dimensions. The five decision-making entities were government, business, individuals and families, non-profit organizations, and churches.

Government was identified by the largest share of people as the best decision-maker related to gun policies (56%), laws concerning pornography (53%), reducing poverty (51%), developing economic policies and practices (50%), and addressing environmental concerns (47%).

In fact, the only area for which government was not the clear preference for making the determining choices was related to moral standards, In that case, individuals and families were identified as the best decision-maker – by a whopping 5-to-1 margin.

In addition, people were evenly divided on which would be the better decision-maker concerning free speech (a toss-up between government and individuals) and healthcare policies (also a tie between government and individuals).

Churches and non-profit organizations were not deemed to be the best decision-makers for any of the eight areas evaluated.

Need for Education

George Barna, who led the survey process for the American Culture & Faith Institute, noted that the research underscored the public’s lack of understanding of capitalism, socialism, and the governance process.

“This and other studies suggest that millions of Americans know little about our national economic and governance systems,” Barna commented. “Because the quality of decisions made hinges upon the depth of information and understanding possessed by the decision-maker, our nation is suffering from the reality that its people are ill-informed about the fundamental workings of the society in which they live. In a democratic republic, like America, that can have debilitating consequences for the health and well-being of that society.

“The lack of insight into how our national systems work is undoubtedly connected to the growing divisiveness in our society,” the researcher continued. “Hindered by a lack of information and insight, people are more easily swayed by superficial or tangential arguments. It also helps to explain why so-called ‘fake news’ can have such a devastating impact upon the choices people make and the quality of life they experience.”

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George Barna

George Barna is the Executive Director for the American Culture & Faith Institute.

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  1. Hi. I think this report is ill-informed about being ill-informed. Allow me to better inform… about capitalism.


    We ALL see the pyramid scheme symbol on the back of the USA one dollar bill. We ALL see the servitude infestation in capitalism. We ALL see the “pay up or lose your wellbeing” Chicago mob-like felony extortion widespread within capitalism. We ALL see the “join or starve” felony extortion done to the 18 year olds… by this ugly competer’s church called capitalism. We ALL see how forcing competer’s religions onto 18 year olds, and/or LURING them into it with bling-dangling and promises of empowerments… kills membership in the cooperator’s church (Christianity/socialism). We ALL understand that AmWay (American Way) (New World Order) got “the exclusive” (legal tender) on the TYPE of survival coupons (money) accepted in supply depots (stores) and leverages 18 year olds into the organization via that felony activity. (It puts AmWay-coupon slaving requirements called price tags… on all the survival goods). We ALL understand how sure-to-collapse farmyard pyramids work… from our childhoods. Upper 1/3 are “heads in the clouds” while the kids on the bottom ALWAYS GET HURT from the weight of the world’s knees in their backs. And, we ALL see how such systems are illegal, immoral, and just plain sick.

    We American Christian socialists are patiently awaiting the natural fall of the pyramid-o-servitude, or the busting of the free marketeers felony… by the USA Dept of Justice. We Christians are VERY CLOSE to issuing a cease and desist order until the servitude and inequality goes away… which means it turns into a commune. Commune is a word we LOVE when used in the word “community”… but its one the caps HATE when used in the word “commune-ism”. Go fig. PROGRAMMED!!

    Do a Google IMAGE SEARCH for ‘pyramid of capitalist’ to see a full color picture made way back in 1911, when capitalism was first discovered to be a con/sham instigated by the Free Masons/Illuminati. Folks sure bought into the thing… hook, line, and sinker just the same. The caps didn’t even check if a string was attached! Now THAT’S easy fishing, eh?

    Time to level the felony pyramid scheme called capitalism. Abolish economies and ownershipism worldwide, and hurry. Economies just cause rat-racing, and rat-racing causes felony pyramiding. BUST IT, America! Look to the USA military supply/survival system… (and the USA public library system) for socialism and morals done right. Equal, owner-less, money-less, bill-less, timecard-less, and concerned with growth of value-criteria OTHER THAN money-value. Quit doing monetary discrimination immediately, and make it illegal. There are MANY measurement criteria of “value”… not just dollars. Try morals, efficiency, discrimination-levels, repairability, etc etc. Economies are cancerous tumors, and to cheer for their growth… is just insane. Profiting causes inflation, so if caps LIKE inflation, and if they LIKE a terrible time in afterlife when they meet the planet’s ORIGINAL OWNER before caps tried to squat it all with ownershipism, then keep it up with the felony pyramiding. I dare you. While us Christians are finally bulldozing that pyramid scheme back to level, lets make servitude and “join or starve” (get a job or die) illegal in the USA, and lets level the architecture seen in USA courtrooms, too. Right now, USA courtrooms are church simulators or “fear chambers”, by special design. Sick.

    Isn’t that back-of-the-dollar pyramid… a Columbian freemason symbol? And WHERE is the USA gov located? District of Columbia? (Not even part of the USA!) How much more blatant can ya get? The “Fed” runs a pyramid scheme called the free marketeers. If you’re using the “federal reserve note” certificates, or using no-other-living-thing-on-the-planet entitles of ownership, you’re bought into a servitude/slavery con/sham… called capitalism. Pyramiding 101.

    Truth is… anyone with any wisdom and perception… will vote against capitalism… and FOR ANYTHING ELSE. I don’t blame them one bit. In fact, I applaud them.

    Larry “Wingnut” Wendlandt
    MaStars – Mothers Against Stuff That Ain’t Right
    Bessemer MI USA

    1. One thing is clear, Larry; you don’t know the difference between corporatism and capitalism. Your argument only underscores how the Left makes Communism (there is no difference between communism and socialism except the violence of its implementation) look good against a false narrative. Capitalism is a set of principles based on “capitol”. And what is capitol? Money?

      Karl Marx hated the free market Laicize Fair because “it tore asunder the nexus of man from his natural superiors(!)” – the lords of the Feudal Estates!

      Capital is NOT money. Capital is the conversion of “effort” (EFFORT, Larry; whereby Biblically a man shall not eat if he does not work!) into money. Productivity. Got it? Capitalism is the PRACTICE of PRODUCTIVITY and EVERY nation on earth, including COMMUNIST China practices Capitalism.

      Corporatism is the combination of the State and Private Enterprise to control Capitalism to their advantage!! Its called Fascism and politically falls some where between socialist democracy and communism. Review the economic systems of the Nationalist SOCIALISTS of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in the 1930s and ’40s! You blame capitalism WRONGLY!! Yes. You, and all who speak like you do are summarily WRONG!

      You are just as ignorant as the people subject of the survey.

      This is Socialism; go to a local theatre and before the show demand that everyone in the audience put all of the cash in their pockets into your hat. Count all of the people in the audience – including those who put nothing in the hate – be sure to include yourself. Then stuff half of the money in the hat into your pocket and divide the other half by the number of people in the audience and give everyone an “equal” share. Let’s see how many people are happy with your socialist system of equality?

      BTW you can demonstrate communism this same way by simply taking all of those people who are offended by your THEFT out back and shooting them!!

      Of course when government does this very same thing, somehow(!), its all okay with you. People like you throw around the word “greed” to play upon its evil connotations and to emotionally frame your argument. But I NEVER hear ANY of you talk about another of the 7 deadly sins – covetousness!!

      So tell me Larry; how is it that people in corporations are so corrupt that you cannot trust them to do anything more than steal and take advantage of the poor cowards who don’t have the guts to take care of themselves in the first place and YET trust the liars in government to do any better once THEY have control of capitalism thru socialism?

      I’d rather have the greedy corporation who are, by and large, NOT armed to the TEETH than a Covetous Government that IS armed to the TEETH and an entire century (20th) of history that tells us what Socialist Communist Governments DO (murdered nearly 200 million people who did no “wrong” other than to disagree with them). Go ahead; convince me why your socialism is better!

      Socialism is Covetousness and LEGALIZED theft.

      The only righteous purpose of government is to provide the Force of Law to the unalienable right of every human being to protect his life and his property. ANYTHING more steals either our freedom or our property – or both!

      If you are going to rage against capitalism at least know what you are talking about.

      1. Hi, and thx for the response.

        I stand behind my claims 100%. Paint-up your capitalism dog turd in makeup, nylons, frosting and sprinkles, it still won’t be edible. If you’re participating in green papers inc. (money/titles)… you’re participating in a con/sham… and you are an accomplice to felony extortion and wage slavery.

        We’re going to take-down your illegal servitude-infested, ordering-infested pyramid, or its going to fall on its own. Capitalism is disgusting and immoral beyond comprehension, and ya’ll know it good’n’well. Own up! Get clean. Build horizontal societal structures (everyone treated the same), and NOT vertical structures.

        Tick tock… the clock is running. Better get clean. Hurry. The bottom layers of your pyramid are crumbling fast, and right before your very eyes. Time to come out from hiding in the hayloft, and face the music. You can only run for SO LONG, and then the spanking and ass-chew is going to catch up with you. Own up to what you joined.

        The real question… were you forced to join the Free Marketeers (or else get no enjoyments), or are you a volunteer joiner? Volunteer joiners are pretty much screwed. Force-ins, that still speak against it… you might have a chance to pass “the test” on the planetary classroom with the giant pyramids on the Giza plains. You’d think that ya’ll would pick-up on those giant hints… indicating what we are ALL here to learn about. But nooooooo.

        Time for you to catch-up, and own-up to what you bought-into… the biggest competer’s church religion EVER. Disgusting. Shake off the programming. Hurry.

      2. Hey, for those who are open-minded to new kinds of socialism/communalism that DON’T carry all the programmed-into-caps ‘evil baggage’,

        (a collection of 25 years of anti-cap blog posts)

        Derrell and others… check out the DavidH_Debate txt file, if you please. In there… I describe a new kind of communalism that COULD work. At minimum, the system I describe… morally and logic/intelligence-wise… beats capitalism 10-to-1. Open your minds to something new and different, something that will increase world happiness levels by 100%. Take note about the point where EVERYONE is a member of government, and it’s ALL government hand-outs… AND hand-ins. No ownership, only custodianship.

        Derrell, will refuse to read it…. out of spite? Do you have an open mind? Is love important to you? If we all adopted each other with the same love and devotion as we adopt pets, would that spark your interest. It would certainly be a different society/world than what you currently are living.

        No ads or product peddling in that zip. Go get it, dig around in it, see all the things that will “ring true”. Better bring a wheelbarrow. 🙂

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