With presidential candidates like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt,. describing himself as a democratic socialist, a recent poll shows most voters are all over the map on what “socialism” really means.
In a recent Hill-HarrisX survey, registered voters from across the nation offered mixed signals on their takes on socialism.
The survey finds the respondents’ attitudes toward the topic included both positive and negative definitions of the term far more then its academic meaning.
Slightly more than a quarter–28 percent–say they believed socialism fulfills basic needs including healthcare, housing, and jobs while 5 percent think socialism will end poverty.
Less than a quarter–22 percent–say they see socialism as a system lacking in civil liberties and political freedoms but only 7 percent view it as abolishing all private property.
A fifth of those surveyed–20 percent–can’t define what socialism is and 13 percent describe socialism as government ownership of some parts of the economy.
The survey also finds that younger voters are more likely to see socialism in a positive light as 44 percent of voters 34 and younger say socialism is about providing basic needs and ending poverty.
When focused on minority communities, the study finds more confusion when it comes to defining socialism as 27 percent of black voters say they are not sure what socialism is while 22 percent of Hispanics 18 percent of whites say the same.
The surveys finds a partisan divide on the matter as 46 percent of GOP respondents have a negative view of socialism while 19 percent insist it has positive aspects. Democrats are just the opposite with a slight majority–51 percent–describing socialism as positive while 11 percent see it as negative.
Independents are more farm split with 31 percent viewing socialism as ending private property and limiting civil liberties and 28 percent seeing it as providing basic needs and ending poverty. Still, the poll shows a large part of the public remains uncertain on what socialism actually is.
The poll of 1,000 registered voters was taken from May 29-May 30 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.
Reach Ed Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org.